(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "Folk-tales of Bengal"

;v\ 






i 



</, 



E 



* »^»i 




BOOK 39- , , , 







1^^ 



%{> 



FOLK -TALES OF BENGAL 




MACMILLAN AND CO., Limited 

LONDON • BOMBAY • CALCUTTA 
MELBOURNE 

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

NEW YORK • BOSTON • CHICAGO 
DALLAS • SAN FRANCISCO 

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, Ltd. 

TORONTO 



"She rushed out of the palace . . . and came to the 
upper world." 



FOLK-TALES OF 
BENGAL 



BY THE 



REV. LAL BEHARI DAY 

AUTHOR OF 'BENGAL PEASANT LIFE,' ETC. 



WITH 32 ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR 
BY WARWICK GOBLE 



MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED 
ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON 

1912 






^T?^ 



COPYRIGHT 

First Edition 1883 
With Colovred [llustrations hy Warwick Goble, 191 e 



TO 

RICHARD CARNAC TEMPLE 

CAPTAIN, BENGAL STAFF CORPS 
F.R.G.S., M.R.A.S., M.A.I., ETC. 

WHO FIRST SUGGESTED TO THE WRITER 

THE IDEA OF COLLECTING 

THESE TALES 

AND WHO IS DOING SO MUCH 

IN THE CAUSE OF INDIAN FOLK-LORE 

THIS LITTLE BOOK 

IS INSCRIBED 



PREFACE 

In my Peasant Life in Bengal I make the peasant 
boy Govinda spend some hours every evening in 
listening to stories told by an old w^oman, who 
was called Sambhu's mother, and who was the 
best story-teller in the village. On reading that 
passage, Captain R. C. Temple, of the Bengal Staff 
Corps, son of the distinguished Indian adminis- 
trator Sir Richard Temple, wrote to me to say 
how interesting it would be to get a collection of 
those unwritten stories which old women in India 
recite to little children in the evenings, and to ask 
whether I could not make such a collection. As 
I was no stranger to the Mahrchen of the Brothers 
Grimm, to the Norse Tales so admirably told by 
Dasent, to Arnason's Icelandic Stories translated by 
Powell, to the Highland Stories done into English 

by Campbell, and to the fairy stories collected by 

vii 



PREFACE 

other writers, and as I believed that the collection 
suggested would be a contribution, however slight, 
to that daily increasing literature of folk-lore and 
comparative mythology which, like comparative 
philosophy, proves that the swarthy and half- 
naked peasant on the banks of the Ganges is a 
cousin, albeit of the hundredth remove, to the 
fair-skinned and well-dressed Englishman on the 
banks of the Thames, I readily caught up the idea 
and cast about for materials. But where was an 
old story-telling woman to be got ? I had myself, 
when a little boy, heard hundreds — it would be no 
exaggeration to say thousands — of fairy tales from 
that same old woman, Sambhu's mother — -for she 
was no fictitious person ; she actually lived in the 
flesh and bore that name ; but I had nearly for- 
gotten those stories, at any rate they had all got 
confused in my head, the tail of one story being 
joined to the head of another, and the head of a 
third to the tail of a fourth. How I wished that 
poor Sambhu's mother had been alive ! But she 
had gone long, long ago, to that bourne from 
which no traveller returns, and her son Sambhu, 

too, had followed her thither. After a great deal 

viii 



PREFACE 

of search 1 found my Gammer Grethel — though 
not half so old as the Frau Viehmannin of Hesse- 
Casscl — in the person of a Bengali Christian 
woman, who, when a little girl and living in her 
heathen home, had heard many stories from her 
old grandmother. She was a good story-teller, 
but her stock was not large ; and after I had heard 
ten from her I had to look about for fresh sources. 
An old Brahman told me two stories ; an old 
barber, three ; an old servant of mine told me two ; 
and the rest I heard from another old Brahman. 
None of my authorities knew English ; they all 
told the stories in Bengali, and I translated them 
into English when I came home. I heard many 
more stories than those contained in the follow- 
ing pages ; but I rejected a great many, as they 
appeared to me to contain spurious additions to the 
original stories which I had heard when a boy. 
I have reason to believe that the stories given in 
this book are a genuine sample of the old old 
stories told by old Bengali women from age to age 
through a hundred generations. 

Sambhu's mother used always to end every one 

of her stories — and every orthodox Bengali story- 

ix 



PREFACE 

teller does the same — with repeating the following 
formula : — 

Thus my story endeth. 

The Natiya-thorn withe reth. 

*' Why^ O Natiya-thorn, dost wither ? " 

" Why does thy cow on me browse V 

" Why, O cow, dost thou browse ^ " 

" Why does thy neat-herd not tend me '^ " 

" Why, neat-herdy dost not tend the cow ? " 

" Why does thy daughter-in-law not give me rice? " 

" Why, O daughter-in-law, dost not give rice ? " 

" Why does my child cry ? " 

" Why, O child, dost thou cry F " 

" Why does the ant bite me 'V 

" Why, O ant, dost thou bite F " 

Koot ! koot I koot I 

What these lines mean, why they are repeated 
at the end of every story, and what the connection 
is of the several parts to one another, I do not 
know. Perhaps the whole is a string of nonsense 
purposely put together to amuse little children. 



LAL BEHARI DAY. 



HooGHLY College, 

February 27, 1883. 



CONTENTS 



SUCKLED 



1. Life's Secret ... 

2. Phakir Chand 

3. The Indigent Brahman 

4. The Story of the Rakshasas 

5. The Story of Swet-Basanta 

6. The Evil Eye of Sani 

7. The Boy whom Seven Mothers 

8. The Story of Prince Sobur 

9. The Origin of Opium 
ig. Strike but Hear 

11. The Adventures of Two Thieves and of 

Sons .... 

12. The Ghost-Brahman . 

13. The Man who wished to be Perfect 

14. A Ghostly Wife .... 

15. The Story of a Brahmadaitya 

xi 



their 



PAGE 
I 

16 

51 
61 

89 

119 
132 

140 

152 

178 
188 
192 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 



• i6. The Story of a Hiraman 200 

17. The Origin of Rubies 211 

18. The Match-making Jackal .... 217 

19. The Boy with the Moon on his Forehead . 227 

20. The Ghost who was Afraid of being Bagged 247 

21. The Field of Bones 251 

22. The Bald Wife 269 



XII 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

FACING PAGE 

" She rushed out of the palace . . . and came to the upper 

world "(p. 26) ...... Frontispiece 

" The Suo queen went to the door with a handful of rice " i 

" The prince revived, and, walking about, saw a human 

figure near the gate "...... 9 

" She took up the jewel in her hand, left the palace, and 

successfully reached the upper world " . . . 22 

" He rushed out of his hiding-place and killed the serpent " 43 

" Instead of sweetmeats about a score of demons " . . 56 

" At the door of which stood a l^dy of exquisite beauty " . 62 

" In a trice she woke up, sat up in her bed, and eyeing the 

stranger, inquired who he was" .... 77 

The Girl of the Wall-Almirah 90 

" On a sudden an elephant gorgeously caparisoned shot 

across his path " . . . . . . . 95 

"They then set out on their journey " .... 106 

" A monstrous bird comes out apparently from the palace " 117 

" Hundreds of peacocks of gorgeous plumes came to the 

embankments to eat the /^^tf/ " . . . .123 

" ' You would adorn the palace of the mightiest sovereign ' " 138 

xiii 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



FACING PAGE 



" He saw a beautiful woman coming out of the palace " . 141 

" ' Husband, take up all this large quantity of gold and 

these precious stones '" . . . . .145 

" They ran away in great fear, leaving behind them the 

money and jewels " . . . . . .162 

" The camel-driver alighted, tied the camel to a tree on 

the spot, and began smoking " . . . .170 

" ' How is it that you have returned so soon ? ' " , . 174 

" At dawn he used to cull flowers in the forest " . . 181 

"The Brahman's wife had occasion to go to the tank, and 

as she went she brushed by a Sankchinni " . . 188 

" The moment the first stroke was given, a great many 

ghosts rushed towards the Brahman" . . .194 

The lady, king, and hiraman all reached the king's 

capital safe and sound " . . . . .210 

What princess ever puts only one ruby in her hair ? ' " 214 

"Coming up to the surface they climbed into the boat" . 216 

" The jackal . . . opened his bundle of betel-leaves, put 

some into his mouth, and began chewing them" . 218 

'■ A bright light, like that of the moon, was seen shining 

on his forehead " . . . . . .237 

" The six queens tried to comfort him " ... 238 

" ' Now, barber, I am going to destroy you. Who will 

protect you ? '" 248 

" They approached a magnificent pile of buildings " . 259 

"Thus the princess was deserted" ..... 266 

" When she got out of the water, what a change was seen 



(C 



(( c 



in her ! " . 

xiv 



271 




'vv/ar.vv I c K, i3 o a t-f- 



" The Suo queen went to the door with a handful of rice." 



LIFE'S SECRET 

There was a king who had two queens, Duo and 
Suo.^ Both of them were childless. One day a 
Faquir (mendicant) came to the palace-gate to ask 
for alms. The Suo queen went to the door with 
a handful of rice. The mendicant asked whether 
she had any children. On being answered in the 
negative, the holy mendicant refused to take alms, 
as the hands of a woman unblessed with child are 
regarded as ceremonially unclean. He offered her 
a drug for removing her barrenness, and she ex- 
pressing her willingness to receive it, he gave it to 
her with the following directions : — " Take this 
nostrum, swallow it with the juice of the pome- 
granate flower ; if you do this, you will have a 
son in due time. The son will be exceedingly 
handsome, and his complexion will be of the 
colour of the pomegranate flower ; and you shall 
call him Dalim Kumar.^ As enemies will try to 
take away the life of your son, I may as well tell 

1 Kings, in Bengali folk-talcs, have invariably two queens — the elder is 
called duo, that is, not loved ; and the younger is called suo, that is, loved. 

2 Dalim or dadimba means a pomegranate, and kumara son. 

I B 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL i 

you that the life of the boy will be bound up in 
the life of a big boal fish which is in your tank, in 
front of the palace. In the heart of the fish is a 
small box of wood, in the box is a necklace of gold, 
that necklace is the life of your son. Farewell." 

In the course of a month or so it was whispered 
in the palace that the Suo queen had hopes of an 
heir. Great was the joy of the king. Visions 
of an heir to the throne, and of a never-ending 
succession of powerful monarchs perpetuating his 
dynasty to the latest generations, floated before his 
mind, and made him glad as he had never been 
in his life. The usual ceremonies performed on 
such occasions were celebrated with great pomp ; 
and the subjects made loud demonstrations of their 
joy at the anticipation of so auspicious an event as 
the birth of a prince. In the fulness of time 
the Suo queen gave birth to a son of uncommon 
beauty. When the king the first time saw the 
face of the infant, his heart leaped with joy. The 
ceremony of the child's first rice was celebrated 
with extraordinary pomp, and the whole kingdom 
was filled with gladness. 

In course of time Dalim Kumar grew up a 
fine boy. Of all sports he was most addicted to 
playing with pigeons. This brought him into 
frequent contact with his stepmother, the Duo 
queen, into whose apartments Dalim's pigeons 
had a trick of always flying. The first time the 
pigeons flew into her rooms, she readily gave 
them up to the owner ; but the second time she 
gave them up with some reluctance. The fact 

2 



I LIFE'S SECRET 

is that the Duo queen, perceiving that Dalim's 
pigeons had this happy knack of flying into her 
apartments, wished to take advantage of it for 
the furtherance of her own selfish views. She 
naturally hated the child, as the king, since his 
birth, neglected her more than ever, and idolised 
the fortunate mother of Dalim. She had heard, 
it is not known how, that the holy mendicant that 
had given the famous pill to the Suo queen had 
also told her of a secret connected with the child's 
life. She had heard that the child's life was 
bound up with something — she did not know 
with what. She determined to extort that secret 
from the boy. Accordingly, the next time the 
pigeons flew into her rooms, she refused to give 
them up, addressing the child thus : — " I won't 
give the pigeons up unless you tell me one thing." 

Dalim. What thing, mamma .? 

Duo, Nothing particular, my darling ; I only 
want to know in what your life is. 

Dalim. What is that, mamma ? Where can 
my life be except in me ? 

Duo. No, child ; that is not what I mean. 
A holy mendicant told your mother that your life 
is bound up with something. I wish to know 
what that thing is. 

Dalim. I never heard of any such thing, 
mamma. 

Duo. If you promise to inquire of your mother 
in what thing your life is, and if you tell me what 
your mother says, then I will let you have the 
pigeons, otherwise not. 

3 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL i 

Dalim. Very well, FU inquire, and let you 
know. Now, please, give me my pigeons. 

Duo. Fll give them on one condition more. 
Promise to me that you will not tell your mother 
that I want the information. 

Dalim. I promise. 

The Duo queen let go the pigeons, and Dalim, 
overjoyed to find again his beloved birds, forgot 
every syllable of the conversation he had had 
with his stepmother. The next day, however, 
the pigeons again flew into the Duo queen's 
rooms. Dalim went to his stepmother, who 
asked him for the required information. The boy 
promised to ask his mother that very day, and 
begged hard for the release of the pigeons. The 
pigeons were at last delivered. After play, Dalim 
went to his mother and said — " Mamma, please 
tell me in what my life is contained." " What do 
you mean, child } " asked the mother, astonished 
beyond measure at the child's extraordinary ques- 
tion. "Yes, mamma," rejoined the child, "I have 
heard that a holy mendicant told you that my life 
is contained in something. Tell me what that 
thing is." " My pet, my darling, my treasure, 
my golden moon, do not ask such an inauspicious 
question. Let the mouth of my enemies be 
covered with ashes, and let my Dalim live for 
ever," said the mother, earnestly. But the child 
insisted on being informed of the secret. He said 
he would not eat or drink anything unless the 
information were given him. The Suo queen, 
pressed by the importunity of her son, in an evil 

4 



I LIFE'S SECRET 

hour told the child the secret of his life. The 
next day the pigeons again, as fate would have it, 
flew into the Duo queen's rooms. Dalim went 
for them ; the stepmother plied the boy with 
sugared words, and obtained the knowledge of the 
secret. 

The Duo queen, on learning the secret of 
Dalim Kumar's life, lost no time in using it for 
the prosecution of her malicious design. She told 
her maid-servants to get for her some dried stalks 
of the hemp plant, which are very brittle, and 
which, when pressed upon, make a peculiar noise, 
not unlike the cracking of joints of bones in the 
human body. These hemp stalks she put under 
her bed, upon which she laid herself down and 
gave out that she was dangerously ill. The king, 
though he did not love her so well as his other 
queen, was in duty bound to visit her in her ill- 
ness. The queen pretended that her bones were 
all cracking ; and sure enough, when she tossed 
from one side of her bed to the other, the hemp 
stalks made the noise wanted. The king, be- 
lieving that the Duo queen was seriously ill, 
ordered his best physician to attend her. With 
that physician the Duo queen was in collusion. 
The physician said to the king that for the queen's 
complaint there was but one remedy, which con- 
sisted in the outward application of something to 
be found inside a large boal fish which was in the 
tank before the palace. The king's fisherman was 
accordingly called and ordered to catch the boal in 
question. On the first throw of the net the fish 

5 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL i 

was caught. It so happened that Dalim Kumar, 

along with other boys, was playing not far from 

the tank. The moment the boal fish was caught 

in the net, that moment Dalim felt unwell ; and 

when the fish was brought up to land, Dalim fell 

down on the ground, and made as if he was about 

to breathe his last. He was immediately taken 

into his mother's room, and the king was astonished 

on hearing of the sudden illness of his son and 

heir. The fish was by the order of the physician 

taken into the room of the Duo queen, and as it 

lay on the floor striking its fins on the ground, 

Dalim in his mother's room was given up for lost. 

When the fish was cut open, a casket was found in 

it ; and in the casket lay a necklace of gold. The 

moment the necklace was worn by the queen, that 

very moment Dalim died in his mother's room. 

When the news of the death of his son and 

heir reached the king he was plunged into an 

ocean of grief, which was not lessened in any 

degree by the intelligence of the recovery of the 

Duo queen. He wept over his dead Dalim so 

bitterly that his courtiers were apprehensive of a 

permanent derangement of his mental powers. 

The king would not allow the dead body of his 

son to be either buried or burnt. He could not 

realise the fact of his son's death ; it was so 

entirely causeless and so terribly sudden. He 

ordered the dead body to be removed to one of 

his garden-houses in the suburbs of the city, and 

to be laid there in state. He ordered that all sorts 

of provisions should be stowed away in that house, 

6 



I LIFE'S SECRET 

as if the young prince needed them for his refec- 
tion. Orders were issued that the house should 
be kept locked up day and night, and that no one 
should go into it except Dalim's most intimate 
friend, the son of the king's prime minister, who 
was intrusted with the key of the house, and who 
obtained the privilege of entering it once in 
twenty-four hours. 

As, owing to her great loss, the Suo queen 
lived in retirement, the king gave up his nights 
entirely to the Duo queen. The latter, in order to 
allay suspicion, used to put aside the gold necklace 
at night ; and, as fate had ordained that Dalim 
should be in the state of death only during the time 
that the necklace was round the neck of the queen, 
he passed into the state of life whenever the neck- 
lace was laid aside. Accordingly Dalim revived 
every night, as the Duo queen every night put 
away the necklace, and died again the next morning 
when the queen put it on. When Dalim became 
reanimated at night he ate whatever food he liked, 
for of such there was a plentiful stock in the 
garden-house, walked about on the premises, and 
meditated on the singularity of his lot. Dalim's 
friend, who visited him only during the day, found 
him always lying a lifeless corpse ; but what 
struck him after some days was the singular fact 
that the body remained in the same state in which 
he saw it on the first day of his visit. There 
was no sign of putrefaction. Except that it was 
lifeless and pale, there were no symptoms of 
corruption — it was apparently quite fresh. Unable 

I 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL i 

to account for so strange a phenomenon, he 
determined to watch the corpse more closely, and 
to visit it not only during the day but sometimes 
also at night. The first night that he paid his 
visit he w^as astounded to see his dead friend 
sauntering about in the garden. At first he 
thought the figure might be only the ghost of his 
friend, but on feeling him and otherwise ex- 
amining him, he found the apparition to be veri- 
table flesh and blood. Dalim related to his friend 
all the circumstances connected with his death ; 
and they both concluded that he revived at nights 
only because the Duo queen put aside her necklace 
when the king visited her. As the life of the 
prince depended on the necklace, the two friends 
laid their heads together to devise if possible some 
plans by which they might get possession of it. 
Night after night they consulted together, but 
they could not think of any feasible scheme. At 
length the gods brought about the deliverance of 
Dalim Kumar in a wonderful manner. 

Some years before the time of which we are 
speaking, the sister of Bidhata-Purusha ^ was de- 
livered of a daughter. The anxious mother asked 
her brother what he had written on her child's 
forehead ; to which Bidhata-Purusha replied that 
she should get married to a dead bridegroom. 
Maddened as she became with grief at the 
prospect of such a dreary destiny for her daughter, 

* Bidhata-Purusha is the deity that predetermines all the events of the life 
of man or woman, and writes on the forehead ot the child, on the sixth day 
of its birth, a brief /»Ym of them. 

8 




J 



x 



ui-C. 



" The prince revived, and, walking about, saw a human 
figure near the gate." 



I LIFE'S SECRET 

she yet thought it useless to remonstrate with her 
brother, for she well knew that he never changed 
what he once wrote. As the child grew in years 
she became exceedingly beautiful, but the mother 
could not look upon her with pleasure in 
consequence of the portion allotted to her by her 
divine brother. When the girl came to marriage- 
able age, the mother resolved to flee from the 
country with her, and thus avert her dreadful 
destiny. But the decrees of fate cannot thus be 
overruled. In the course of their wanderings the 
mother and daughter arrived at the gate of that 
very garden-house in which Dalim Kumar lay. 
It was evening. The girl said she was thirsty and 
wanted to drink water. The mother told her 
daughter to sit at the gate, while she went to 
search for drinking water in some neighbouring 
hut. In the meantime the girl through curiosity 
pushed the door of the garden-house, which 
opened of itself She then went in and saw a 
beautiful palace, and was wishing to come out 
when the door shut itself of its own accord, so that 
she could not get out. As night came on the 
prince revived, and, walking about, saw a human 
figure near the gate. He went up to it, and found 
it was a girl of surpassing beauty. On being 
asked who she was, she told Dalim Kumar all the 
details of her little history, — how her uncle, the 
divine Bidhata-Purusha, wrote on her forehead at 
her birth that she should get married to a dead 
bridegroom, how her mother had no pleasure in 
her life at the prospect of so terrible a destiny, and 

9 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL i 

how, therefore, on the approach of her woman- 
hood, with a view to avert so dreadful a cata- 
strophe, she had left her house with her and 
wandered in various places, how they came to the 
gate of the garden-house, and how her mother had 
now gone in search of drinking water for her. 
Dalim Kumar, hearing her simple and pathetic 
story, said, " I am the dead bridegroom, and you 
must get married to me, come with me to the 
house." " How can you be said to be a dead 
bridegroom when you are standing and speaking 
to me ? " said the girl. " You will understand it 
afterwards," rejoined the prince, " come now and 
follow me." The girl followed the prince into 
the house. As she had been fasting the whole 
day the prince hospitably entertained her. As for 
the mother of the girl, the sister of the divine 
Bidhata-Purusha, she returned to the gate of the 
garden-house after it was dark, cried out for her 
daughter, and getting no answer, went away in 
search of her in the huts in the neighbourhood. 
It is said that after this she was not seen any- 
where. 

While the niece of the divine Bidhata-Purusha 
was partaking of the hospitality of Dalim Kumar, 
his friend as usual made his appearance. He was 
surprised not a little at the sight of the fair 
stranger ; and his surprise became greater when 
he heard the story of the young lady from her 
own lips. It was forthwith resolved that very 
night to unite the young couple in the bonds of 
matrimony. As priests were out of the question, 

10 



I LIFE'S SECRET 

the hymeneal rites were performed a la Gandharva} 
The friend of the bridegroom took leave of the 
newly-married couple and went away to his house. 
As the happy pair had spent the greater part of 
the night in wakefulness, it was long after sunrise 
that they awoke from their sleep ; — I should have 
said that the young wife woke from her sleep, for 
the prince had become a cold corpse, life having 
departed from him. The feelings of the young 
wife may be easily imagined. She shook her 
husband, imprinted warm kisses on his cold lips, 
but in vain. He was as lifeless as a marble statue. 
Stricken with horror, she smote her breast, struck 
her forehead with the palms of her hands, tore her 
hair and went about in the house and in the garden 
as if she had gone mad. Dalim's friend did not 
come into the house during the day, as he deemed 
it improper to pay a visit to her while her husband 
was lying dead. The day seemed to the poor girl 
as long as a year, but the longest day has its end, 
and when the shades of evening were descending 
upon the landscape, her dead husband was awakened 
into consciousness ; he rose up from his bed, 
embraced his disconsolate wife, ate, drank, and 
became merry. His friend made his appearance 
as usual, and the whole night was spent in gaiety 
and festivity. Amid this alternation of life and 
death did the prince and his lady spend some seven 
or eight years, during which time the princess 
presented her husband with two lovely boys who 
were the exact image of their father. 

1 There are eight forms of marriage spoken of in the Hindu Sastras, ot 
which the Gandharva is one, consisting in the exchange of garlands. 

II 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL i 

It is superfluous to remark that the king, the 
two queens, and other members of the royal house- 
hold did not know that Dalim Kumar was living, 
at any rate, was living at night. They all thought 
that he was long ago dead and his corpse burnt. 
But the heart of Dalim's wife was yearning after 
her mother-in-law, whom she had never seen. 
She conceived a plan by which she might be able 
not only to have a sight of her mother-in-law, but 
also to get hold of the Duo queen's necklace, on 
which her husband's life was dependent. With 
the consent of her husband and of his friend she 
disguised herself as a female barber. Like every 
female barber she took a bundle containing the 
following articles : — an iron instrument for paring 
nails, another iron instrument for scraping off the 
superfluous flesh of the soles of the feet, a piece of 
jhama or burnt brick for rubbing the soles of the 
feet with, and alakta ^ for painting the edges of the 
feet and toes with. Taking this bundle in her 
hand she stood at the gate of the king's palace 
with her two boys. She declared herself to be 
a barber, and expressed a desire to see the Suo 
queen, who readily gave her an interview. The 
queen was quite taken up with the two little boys, 
who, she declared, strongly reminded her of her 
darling Dalim Kumar. Tears fell profusely from 
her eyes at the recollection of her lost treasure ; 
but she of course had not the remotest idea that 
the two little boys were the sons of her own dear 
Dalim. She told the supposed barber that she did 

1 Alakta is leaves or flimsy paper saturated with lac. 

12 



I LIFE'S SECRET 

not require her services, as, since the death of her 
son, she had given up all terrestrial vanities, and 
among others the practice of dyeing her feet red ; 
but she added that, nevertheless, she would be glad 
now^ and then to see her and her two fine boys. 
The female barber, for so we must now call her, 
then went to the quarters of the Duo queen and 
offered her services. The queen allowed her to 
pare her nails, to scrape off the superfluous flesh of 
her feet, and to paint them with alakta^ and was 
so pleased with her skill, and the sweetness of her 
disposition, that she ordered her to wait upon her 
periodically. The female barber noticed with no 
little concern the necklace round the queen's neck. 
The day of her second visit came on, and she 
instructed the elder of her two sons to set up a 
loud cry in the palace, and not to stop crying till 
he got into his hands the Duo queen's necklace. 
The female barber, accordingly, went again on the 
appointed day to the Duo queen's apartments. 
While she was engaged in painting the queen's 
feet, the elder boy set up a loud cry. On being 
asked the reason of the cry, the boy, as previously 
instructed, said that he wanted the queen's necklace. 
The queen said that it was impossible for her to 
part with that particular necklace, for it was the 
best and most valuable of all her jewels. To 
gratify the boy, however, she took it off her neck, 
and put it into the boy's hand. The boy stopped 
crying and held the necklace tight in his hand. 
As the female barber after she had done her work 
was about to go away, the queen wanted the neck- 

13 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL i 

lace back. But the boy would not part with it. 
When his mother attempted to snatch it from him, 
he wept bitterly, and showed as if his heart would 
break. On which the female barber said — " Will 
your Majesty be gracious enough to let the boy 
take the necklace home with him ? When he 
falls asleep after drinking his milk, which he is 
sure to do in the course of an hour, I will carefully 
bring it back to you." The queen, seeing that the 
boy would not allow it to be taken away from 
him, agreed to the proposal of the female barber, 
especially reflecting that Dalim, whose life depended 
on it, had long ago gone to the abodes of death. 

Thus possessed of the treasure on which the life 
of her husband depended, the woman went with 
breathless haste to the garden-house and presented 
the necklace to Dalim, who had been restored to 
life. Their joy knew no bounds, and by the advice 
of their friend they determined the next day to go 
to the palace in state, and present themselves to the 
king and the Suo queen. Due preparations were 
made ; an elephant, richly caparisoned, was brought 
for the prince Dalim Kumar, a pair of ponies for 
the two little boys, and a chaturdala ^ furnished 
with curtains of gold lace for the princess. Word 
was sent to the king and the Suo queen that the 
prince Dalim Kumar was not only alive, but that 
he was coming to visit his royal parents with his 
wife and sons. The king and Suo queen could 
hardly believe in the report, but being assured of 

1 A sort of open Palki, used generally for carrying the bridegroom and 
bride in marriage processions. 



I LIFE'S SECRET 

its truth they were entranced with joy ; while the 
Duo queen, anticipating the disclosure of all her 
wiles, became overwhelmed with grief. The pro- 
cession of Dalim Kumar, which was attended by a 
band of musicians, approached the palace-gate ; 
and the king and Suo queen went out to receive 
their long-lost son. It is needless to say that their 
joy was intense. They fell on each other's neck 
and wept. Dalim then related all the circumstances 
connected with his death. The king, inflamed 
with rage, ordered the Duo queen into his presence. 
A large hole, as deep as the height of a man, was 
dug in the ground. The Duo queen was put into 
it in a standing posture. Prickly thorn was heaped 
around her up to the crown of her head ; and in 
this manner she was buried alive. 

Thus my story endeth^ 

The Natiya-thorn wit here th ; 

" Why, O Natiya-thorn, dost wither ? " 

" Why does thy cow on me browse ? " 

" Why, O cow, dost thou browse ? " 

" Why does thy neat-herd not tetid me V 

" Why, O neat-herd, dost not tend the cow f " 

" Why does thy daughter-in-law not give me rice ? " 

*' Why, O daughter-in-law, dost not give rice f " 

" Why does my child cry f " 

" Why, O child, dost thou cry ? " 

" Why does the ant bite meV 

" Why, O ant, dost thou bite ^ " 

Root ! koot I hot ! 



15 



II 

PHAKIR CHAND 

There was a king's son, and there was a minister's 
son. They loved each other dearly ; they sat 
together, they stood up together, they walked 
together, they ate together, they slept together, 
.they got up together. In this way they spent 
many years in each other's company, till they both 
felt a desire to see foreign lands. So one day they 
set out on their journey. Though very rich, the 
one being the son of a king and the other the son 
of his chief minister, they did not take any servants 
with them ; they went by themselves on horseback. 
The horses were beautiful to look at ; they were 
pakshirajes^ or kings of birds. The king's son and 
the minister's son rode together many days. They 
passed through extensive plains covered with paddy ; 
through cities, towns, and villages ; through water- 
less, treeless deserts ; through dense forests which 
were the abode of the tiger and the bear. One 
evening they were overtaken by night in a region 
where human habitations were not seen ; and as it 
was getting darker and darker, they dismounted 
beneath a lofty tree, tied their horses to its trunk, 

i6 



II PHAKIR CHAND 

and, climbing up, sat on its branches covered with 
thick foliage. The tree grew near a large tank, 
the water of which was as clear as the eye of a 
crow. The king's son and the minister's son made 
themselves as comfortable as they could on the tree, 
being determined to spend on its branches the 
livelong night. They sometimes chatted together 
in whispers on account of the lonely terrors of the 
region ; they sometimes sat demurely silent for 
some minutes ; and anon they were falling into a 
doze, when their attention was arrested by a terrible 
sight. 

A sound like the rush of many waters was 
heard from the middle of the tank. A huge 
serpent was seen leaping up from under the water 
with its hood of enormous size. It " lay floating 
many a rood " ; then it swam ashore, and went 
about hissing. But what most of all attracted the 
attention of the king's son and the minister's son 
was a brilliant manikya (jewel) on the crested hood 
of the serpent. It shone like a thousand diamonds. 
It lit up the tank, its embankments, and the objects 
round about. The serpent doffed the jewel from 
its crest and threw it on the ground, and then it 
went about hissing in search of food. The two 
friends sitting on the tree greatly admired the 
wonderful brilliant, shedding ineffable lustre on 
everything around. They had never before seen 
anything like it ; they had only heard of it as 
equalling the treasures of seven kings. Their 
admiration, however, was soon changed into sorrow 
and fear ; for the serpent came hissing to the foot 

17 c 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL ii 

of the tree on the branches of which they were 
seated, and swallowed up, one by one, the horses 
tied to the trunk. They feared that they them- 
selves would be the next victims, when, to their 
infinite relief, the gigantic cobra turned away from 
the tree, and went about roaming to a great distance. 
The minister's son, seeing this, bethought himself 
of taking possession of the lustrous stone. He had 
heard that the only way to hide the brilliant light 
of the jewel was to cover it with cow-dung or 
horse-dung, a quantity of which latter article he 
perceived lying at the foot of the tree. He came 
down from the tree softly, picked up the horse- 
dung, threw it upon the precious stone, and again 
climbed into the tree. The serpent, not perceiving 
the light of its head-jewel, rushed with great fury 
to the spot where it had been left. Its hissings, 
groans, and convulsions were terrible. It went 
round and round the jewel covered with horse-dung, 
and then breathed its last. Early next morning the 
king's son and the minister's son alighted from the 
tree, and went to the spot where the crest-jewel 
was. The mighty serpent lay there perfectly 
lifeless. The minister's son took up in his hand 
the jewel covered with horse-dung ; and both of 
them went to the tank to wash it. When all the 
horse-dung had been washed off, the jewel shone 
as brilliantly as before. It lit up the entire bed 
of the tank, and exposed to their view the in- 
numerable fishes swimming about in the waters. 
But what was their astonishment when they saw, 
by the light of the jewel, in the bottom of the 

i8 



II PHAKIR CHAND 

tank, the lofty walls of what seemed a magnificent 
palace. The venturesome son of the minister 
proposed to the prince that they should dive into 
the waters and get at the palace below. They 
both dived into the waters — the jewel being in the 
hand of the minister's son — and in a moment stood 
at the gate of the palace. The gate was open. 
They saw no being, human or superhuman. They 
went inside the gate, and saw a beautiful garden 
laid out on the ample grounds round about the 
house which was in the centre. The king's son 
and the minister's son had never seen such a pro- 
fusion of flowers. The rose with its many varieties, 
the jessamine, the bel^ the mallika^ the king of 
smells^ the lily of the valley, the Champaka^ and a 
thousand other sorts of sweet-scented flowers were 
there. And of each of these flowers there seemed 
to be a large number. Here were a hundred rose- 
bushes, there many acres covered with the delicious 
jessamine, while yonder were extensive plantations 
of all sorts of flowers. As all the plants were 
begemmed with flowers, and as the flowers were 
in full bloom, the air was loaded with rich perfume. 
It was a wilderness of sweets. Through this 
paradise of perfumery they proceeded towards the 
house, which was surrounded by banks of lofty 
trees. They stood at the door of the house. It 
was a fairy palace. The walls were of burnished 
gold, and here and there shone diamonds of dazzling 
hue which were stuck into the walls. They did 
not meet with any beings, human or other. They 
went inside, which was richly furnished. They 

19 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL ii 

went from room to room, but they did not see 
any one. It seemed to be a deserted house. At 
last, however, they found in one room a young 
lady lying down, apparently in sleep, on a bed of 
golden framework. She was of exquisite beauty ; 
her complexion was a mixture of red and white ; 
and her age was apparently about sixteen. The 
king's son and the minister's son gazed upon her 
with rapture ; but they had not stood long when 
this young lady of superb beauty opened her eyes, 
which seemed like those of a gazelle. On seeing' 
the strangers she said : " How have you come here, 
ye unfortunate men ? Begone, begone ! This is 
the abode of a mighty serpent, which has devoured 
my father, my mother, my brothers, and all my 
relatives ; I am the only one of my family that he 
has spared. Flee for your lives, or else the serpent 
will put you both in its capacious maw." The 
minister's son told the princess how the serpent 
had breathed its last ; how he and his friend had 
got possession of its head-jewel, and by its light 
had come to her palace. She thanked the strangers 
for delivering her from the infernal serpent, and 
begged of them to live in the house, and never to 
desert her. The king's son and the minister's son 
gladly accepted the invitation. The king's son,, 
smitten with the charms of the peerless princess, 
married her after a short time ; and as there was 
no priest there, the hymeneal knot was tied by a 
simple exchange of garlands of flowers. 

The king's son became inexpressibly happy in 
the company of the princess, who was as amiable 

20 



II PHAKIR CHAND 

in her disposition as she was beautiful in her 
person ; and though the wife of the minister's son 
was living in the upper world, he too participated 
in his friend's happiness. Time thus passed 
merrily, when the king's son bethought himself of 
returning to his native country ; and as it was fit 
that he should go with his princess in due pomp, 
it was determined that the minister's son should 
first ascend from the subaqueous regions, go to 
the king, and bring with him attendants, horses, 
and elephants for the happy pair. The snake- 
jewel was therefore had in requisition. The 
prince, with the jewel in hand, accompanied the 
minister's son to the upper world, and bidding adieu 
to his friend returned to his lovely wife in the en- 
chanted palace. Before leaving, the minister's son 
appointed the day and the hour when he would 
stand on the high embankments of the tank with 
horses, elephants, and attendants, and wait upon 
the prince and the princess, who were to join him 
in the upper world by means of the jewel. 

Leaving the minister's son to wend his way to 
his country and to make preparations for the 
return of his king's son, let us see how the happy 
couple in the subterranean palace were passing 
their time. One day, while the prince was sleep- 
ing after his noonday meal, the princess, who had 
never seen the upper regions, felt the desire of 
visiting them, and the rather as the snake-jewel, 
which alone could give her safe conduct through 
the waters, was at that moment shedding its 
bright effulgence in the room. She took up the 

21 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL ii 

jewel in her hand, left the palace, and successfully 
reached the upper world. No mortal caught her 
sight. She sat on the flight of steps with which 
the tank was furnished for the convenience of 
bathers, scrubbed her body, washed her hair, dis- 
ported in the waters, walked about on the water's 
edge, admired all the scenery around, and returned 
to her palace, where she found her husband still 
locked in the embrace of sleep. When the prince 
woke up, she did not tell him a word about her 
adventure. The following day at the same hour, 
when her husband was asleep, she paid a second 
visit to the upper world, and went back unnoticed 
by mortal man. As success made her bold, she 
repeated her adventure a third time. It so 
chanced that on that day the son of the Rajah, in 
whose territories the tank was situated, was out on 
a hunting excursion, and had pitched his tent not 
far from the place. While his attendants were 
engaged in cooking their noon -day meal, the 
Rajah's son sauntered about on the embankments 
of the tank, near which an old woman was 
gathering sticks and dried branches of trees for 
purposes of fuel. It was while the Rajah's son 
and the old woman were near the tank that the 
princess paid her third visit to the upper world. 
She rose up from the waters, gazed around, and 
seeing a man and a woman on the banks again 
went down. The Rajah's son caught a momentary 
glimpse of the princess, and so did the old woman 
gathering sticks. The Rajah's son stood gazing 
on the waters. He had never seen such a beauty. 

22 



" She took up the jewel in her hand, left the palace, 
and successfully reached the upper world." 



II PHAKIR CHAND 

She seemed to him to be one of those deva-kanyas, 
heavenly goddesses, of whom he had read in old 
books, and who are said now and then to favour 
the lower world with their visits, which, like angel 
visits, are " few and far between." The unearthly 
beauty of the princess, though he had seen her 
only for a moment, made a deep impression on his 
heart, and distracted his mind. He stood there 
like a statue, for hours, gazing on the waters, in 
the hope of seeing the lovely figure again. But in 
vain. The princess did not appear again. The 
Rajah's son became mad with love. He kept 
muttering — " Now here, now gone ! Now here, 
now gone ! " He would not leave the place till 
he was forcibly removed by the attendants who 
had now come to him. He was taken to his 
father's palace in a state of hopeless insanity. He 
spoke to nobody ; he always sobbed heavily ; and 
the only words which proceeded out of his mouth 
— and he was muttering them every minute — 
were, " Now here, now gone ! Now here, now 
gone ! " The Rajah's grief may well be 
conceived. He could not imagine what should 
have deranged his son's mind. The words, " Now 
here, now gone," which ever and anon issued from 
his son's lips, were a mystery to him ; he could 
not unravel their meaning ; neither could the 
attendants throw any light on the subject. The 
best physicians of the country were consulted, but 
to no effect. The sons of ^sculapius could not 
ascertain the cause of the madness, far less could 
they cure it. To the many inquiries of the 

23 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL ii 

physicians, the only reply made by the Rajah's son 
was the stereotyped words — " Now here, now 
gone ! Now here, now gone ! " 

The Rajah, distracted with grief on account of 
the obscuration of his son's intellects, caused a 
proclamation to be made in the capital by beat of 
drum, to the effect that, if any person could 
explain the cause of his son's madness and cure it, 
such a person would be rewarded with the hand of 
the Rajah's daughter, and with the possession of 
half his kingdom. The drum was beaten round 
most parts of the city, but no one touched it, as no 
one knew the cause of the madness of the Rajah's 
son. At last an old woman touched the drum, 
and declared that she would not only discover the 
cause of the madness, but cure it. This woman, 
who was the identical woman that was gathering 
sticks near the tank at the time the Rajah's son lost 
his reason, had a crack-brained son of the name 
of Phakir Chand, and was in consequence called 
Phakir's mother, or more familiarly Phakre's 
mother. When the woman was brought before 
the Rajah, the following conversation took 
place : — 

Rajah. You are the woman that touched the 
drum. — You know the cause of my son's madness ? 

Phakir s Mother. Yes, O incarnation of justice! 
I know the cause, but I will not mention it till I 
have cured your son. 

Rajah. How can I believe that you are able 
to cure my son, when the best physicians of the 
land have failed ? 

24 



" PHAKIR CHAND 

Phakirs Mother. You need not now believe, 
my lord, till I have performed the cure. Many 
an old v^oman knows secrets with which wise men 
are unacquainted. 

Rajah. Very well, let me see what you can 
do. In what time will you perform the cure ? 

Phakirs Mother. It is impossible to fix the 
time at present ; but I will begin work immediately 
with your lordship's assistance. 

Rajah. What help do you require from me .? 
Phakirs Mother. Your lordship will please 
order a hut to be raised on the embankment of the 
tank where your son first caught the disease. I 
mean to live in that hut for a few days. And 
your lordship will also please order some of your 
servants to be in attendance at a distance of about 
a hundred yards from the hut, so that they might 
be within call. 

^ Rajah. Very well ; I will order that to be 
immediately done. Do you want anything else ? 

Phakir's Mother. Nothing else, my lord, in 
the way of preparations. But it is as well to 
remind your lordship of the conditions on which I 
undertake the cure. Your lordship has promised 
to give to the performer of the cure the hand of 
your daughter and half your kingdom. As I am a 
woman and cannot marry your daughter, I beg 
that, in case I perform the cure, my son Phakir 
Chand may marry your daughter and take possession 
ot half your kingdom. 

Rajah. Agreed, agreed. 

A temporary hut was in a few hours erected 

25 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL ii 

on the embankment of the tank, and Phaklr*s 
mother took up her abode in it. An outpost was 
also erected at some distance for servants in attend- 
ance who might be required to give help to the 
woman. Strict orders were given by Phakir's 
mother that no human being should go near the 
tank excepting herself. Let us leave Phakir's 
mother keeping watch at the tank, and hasten 
down into the subterranean palace to see what 
the prince and the princess are about. After the 
mishap which had occurred on her last visit to the 
upper world, the princess had given up the idea of 
a fourth visit. But women generally have greater 
curiosity than men ; and the princess of the 
underground palace was no exception to the 
general rule. One day, while her husband was 
asleep as usual after his noonday meal, she rushed 
out of the palace with the snake-jewel in her hand, 
and came to the upper world. The moment the 
upheaval of the waters in the middle of the tank 
took place, Phakir's mother, who was on the alert, 
concealed herself in the hut and began looking 
through the chinks of the matted wall. The 
princess, seeing no mortal near, came to the 
bank, and sitting there began to scrub her body. 
Phakir's mother showed herself outside the hut, 
and addressing the princess, said in a winning tone 
— " Come, my child, thou queen of beauty, come 
to me, and I will help you to bathe. '^ So saying, 
she approached the princess, who, seeing that it 
was only a woman, made no resistance. The old 

woman, while in the act of washing the hair of 

26 



II PHAKIR CHAND 

the princess, noticed the bright jewel in her hand, 
and said — " Put the jewel here till you are bathed." 
In a moment the jewel was in the possession of 
Phakir's mother, who wrapped it up in the cloth 
that was round her waist. Knowing the princess 
to be unable to escape, she gave the signal to the 
attendants in waiting, who rushed to the tank and 
made the princess a captive. 

Great were the rejoicings of the people when 
the tidings reached the city that Phakir's mother 
had captured a water-nymph from the nether 
regions. The whole city came to see the " daughter 
of the immortals," as they called the princess. 
When she was brought to the palace and confronted 
with the Rajah's son of obscured intellect, the 
latter said with a shout of exultation — " I have 
found ! I have found ! " The cloud which had 
settled on his brain was dissipated in a moment. 
The eyes, erewhile vacant and lustreless, now 
glowed with the fire of intelligence ; his tongue, 
of which he had almost lost the use — the only 
words which he used to utter being, " Now here, 
now gone ! " — was now relaxed : in a word, he 
was restored to his senses. The joy of the Rajah 
knew no bounds. There was great festivity in the 
city ; and the people who showered benedictions 
on the head of Phakir Chand's mother, expected 
the speedy celebration of the marriage of the 
Rajah's son with the beauty of the nether world. 
The princess, however, told the Rajah, through 
Phakir's mother, that she had made a vow to the 

effect that she would not, for one whole year, look 

27 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL ii 

at the face of another man than that of her husband 
who was dwelling beneath the waters, and that 
therefore the marriage could not be performed 
during that period. Though the Rajah's son was 
somewhat disappointed, he readily agreed to the 
delay, believing, agreeably to the proverb, that 
delay would greatly enhance the sweetness of those 
pleasures which were in store for him. 

It is scarcely necessary to say that the princess 
spent her days and her nights in sorrowing and sigh- 
ing. She lamented that idle curiosity which had 
led her to come to the upper world, leaving her 
husband below. When she recollected that her hus- 
band was all alone below the waters she wept bitter 
tears. She wished she could run away. But that 
was impossible, as she was immured within walls, 
and there were walls within walls. Besides, if she 
could get out of the palace and of the city, of what 
avail would it be ? She could not gain her husband, 
as the serpent jewel was not in her possession. 
The ladies of the palace and Phakir's mother tried 
to divert her mind, but in vain. She took pleasure 
in nothing ; she would hardly speak to any one ; 
she wept day and night. The year of her vow 
was drawing to a close, and yet she was disconsolate. 
The marriage, however, must be celebrated. The 
Rajah consulted the astrologers, and the day and 
the hour in which the nuptial knot was to be tied 
were fixed. Great preparations were made. The 
confectioners of the city busied themselves day and 
night in preparing sweetmeats ; milkmen took 

contracts for supplying the palace with tanks of 

28 



II PHAKIR CHAND 

curds ; gunpowder was being manufactured for a 
grand display of fireworks ; bands of musicians 
were placed on sheds erected over the palace gate, 
who ever and anon sent forth many " a bout of 
linked sweetness " ; and the whole city assumed an 
air of mirth and festivity. 

It is time we should think of the minister's 
son, who, leaving his friend in the subterranean 
palace, had gone to his country to bring horses, 
elephants, and attendants for the return of the king's 
son and his lovely princess with due pomp. The 
preparations took him many months ; and when 
everything was ready he started on his journey, 
accompanied by a long train of elephants, horses, 
and attendants. He reached the tank two or three 
days before the appointed day. Tents were pitched 
in the mango-topes adjoining the tank for the 
accommodation of men and cattle ; and the 
minister's son always kept his eyes fixed on the 
tank. The sun of the appointed day sank below 
the horizon ; but the prince and the princess 
dwelling beneath the waters made no sign. He 
waited two or three days longer ; still the prince 
did not make his appearance. What could have 
happened to his friend and his beautiful wife ? 
Were they dead ? Had another serpent, possibly 
the mate of the one that had died, beaten the 
prince and the princess to death ? Had they 
somehow lost the serpent-jewel .? Or had they 
been captured when they were once on a visit to 
the upper world ? Such were the reflections of 
the minister's son. He was overwhelmed with 

29 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL ii 

grief. Ever since he had come to the tank he had 
heard at regular intervals the sound of music 
coming from the city which was not distant. He 
inquired of passers-by what that music meant. He 
was told that the Rajah's son was about to be 
married to some wonderful young lady, who had 
come out of the waters of that very tank on 
the bank of which he was now seated, and 
that the marriage ceremony was to be per- 
formed on the day following the next. The 
minister's son immediately concluded that the 
wonderful young lady of the lake that was to 
be married was none other than the wife of his 
friend, the king's son. He resolved therefore to 
go into the city to learn the details of the affair, 
and try if possible to rescue the princess. He told 
the attendants to go home, taking with them 
the elephants and the horses ; and he himself went 
to the city, and took up his abode in the house of 
a Brahman. 

After he had rested and taken his dinner, the 
minister's son asked the Brahman what the 
meaning was of the music that was heard in the 
city at regular intervals. The Brahman asked, 
" From what part of the world have you come 
that you have not heard of the wonderful 
circumstance that a young lady of heavenly beauty 
rose out of the waters of a tank in the suburbs, and 
that she is going to be married the day after to- 
morrow to the son of our Rajah ? " 

Minister's Son. No, I have heard nothing. I 
have come from a distant country whither the 

30 



II PHAKIR CHAND 

story has not reached. Will you kindly tell me 
the particulars ? 

Brahman. The Rajah's son went out a- 
hunting about this time last year. He pitched his 
tents close to a tank in the suburbs. One day, 
while the Rajah's son was walking near the tank, 
he saw a young woman, or rather goddess, of 
uncommon beauty rise from the waters of the 
tank. She gazed about for a minute or two and 
disappeared. The Rajah's son, however, who had 
seen her, was so struck with her heavenly beauty 
that he became desperately enamoured of her. 
Indeed, so intense was his passion, that his reason 
gave way ; and he was carried home hopelessly 
mad. The only words he uttered day and night 
were — " Now here, now gone ! " The Rajah sent 
for all the best physicians of the country for 
restoring his son to his reason ; but the physicians 
were powerless. At last he caused a proclamation 
to be made by beat of drum to the effect that if 
any one could cure the Rajah's son, he should 
be the Rajah's son-in-law and the owner of 
half his kingdom. An old woman, who went 
by the name of Phakir's mother, took hold 
of the drum, and declared her ability to cure the 
Rajah's son. On the tank where the princess had 
appeared was raised for Phakir's mother a hut in 
which she took up her abode ; and not far from 
her hut another hut was erected for the accommoda- 
tion of attendants who might be required to help 
her. It seems the goddess rose from the waters ; 
Phakir's mother seized her with the help of the 

31 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL ii 

attendants, and carried her in a palki to the palace. 
At the sight of her the Rajah's son was restored to 
his senses ; and the marriage would have been 
celebrated at that time but for a vow which the 
goddess had made that she would not look at the 
face of any male person till the lapse of a year. 
The year of the vow is now over ; and the music 
which you have heard is from the gate of the 
Rajah's palace. This, in brief, is the story. 

Minister s Son. A truly wonderful story ! 
And has Phakir's mother, or rather Phakir Chand 
himself, been rewarded with the hand of the 
Rajah's daughter and with the possession of half 
the kingdom ? 

Brahman. No, not yet. Phakir has not been 
got hold of. He is a half-witted lad, or rather 
quite mad. He has been away for more than a 
year from his home, and no one knows where he 
is. That is his manner ; he stays away for a long 
time, suddenly comes home, and again disappears. 
I believe his mother expects him soon. 

Minister's Son. What like is he } and what 
does he do when he returns home ? 

Brahman. Why, he is about your height, 
though he is somewhat younger than you. He 
puts on a small piece of cloth round his waist, 
rubs his body with ashes, takes the branch of a 
tree in his hand, and, at the door of the hut in 
which his mother lives, dances to the tune of 
dhoop ! dhoop ! dhoop ! His articulation is very 
indistinct ; and when his mother says — " Phakir ! 
stay with me for some days," he invariably answers 

32 



II PHAKIR CHAND 

in his usual unintelligible manner, " No, I won't 
remain, I won't remain." And when he wishes to 
give an affirmative answer, he says, " Hoom," 
which means " Yes.'* 

The above conversation with the Brahman 
poured a flood of light into the mind of the 
minister's son. He saw how matters stood. He 
perceived that the princess of the subterranean 
palace must have alone ventured out into the tank 
by means of the snake-jewel ; that she must have 
been captured alone without the king's son ; that the 
snake-jewel must be in the possession of Phakir's 
mother ; and that his friend, the king's son, must 
be alone below the waters without any means of 
escape. The desolate and apparently hopeless 
state of his friend filled him with unutterable 
grief He was in deep musings during most part 
of the night. Is it impossible, thought he, to 
rescue the king's son from the nether regions .? 
What if, by some means or other, I contrive to get 
the jewel from the old woman ? And can I not 
do it by personating Phakir Chand himself, who is 
expected by his mother shortly .? And possibly by 
the same means I may be able to rescue the 
princess from the Rajah's palace. He resolved to 
act the role of Phakir Chand the following day. 
In the morning he left the Brahman's house, went 
to the outskirts of the city, divested himself of his 
usual clothing, put round his waist a short and 
narrow piece of cloth which scarcely reached his 
knee-joints, rubbed his body well with ashes, took 
in his hand a twig which he broke off a tree, and 

33 D 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL ii 

thus accoutred, presented himself before the door 
of the hut of Phakir's mother. He commenced 
operations by dancing, in a most violent manner, 
to the tune of dhoopl dhoopl dhoopl The dancing 
attracted the notice of the old woman, who, 
supposing that her son had come, said — " My son 
Phakir, are you come ? Come, my darling ; the 
gods have at last become propitious to us." The 
supposed Phakir Chand uttered the monosyllable 
" hoom," and went on dancing in a still more 
violent manner than before, waving the twig in 
his hand. " This time you must not go away," 
said the old woman, " you must remain with me." 
" No, I won't remain, I won't remain," said the 
minister's son. " Remain with me, and I'll get 
you married to the Rajah's daughter. Will you 
marry, Phakir Chand ? " The minister's son 
replied — "Hoom, hoom," and danced on like a 
madman. " Will you come with me to the 
Rajah's house ? I'll show you a princess of 
uncommon beauty who has risen from the waters." 
" Hoom, hoom," was the answer that issued from 
his lips, while his feet tripped it violently to the 
sound of dhoop ! dhoop 1 " Do you wish to see a 
manik, Phakir, the crest jewel of the serpent, the 
treasure of seven kings ? " " Hoom, hoom," was 
the reply. The old woman brought out of the 
hut the snake-jewel, and put it into the hand of 
her supposed son. The minister's son took it, and 
carefully wrapped it up in the piece of cloth 
round his waist. Phakir's mother, delighted be- 
yond measure at the opportune appearance of her 

34 



II PHAKIR CHAND 

son, went to the Rajah's house, partly to announce 
to the Rajah the news of Phakir's appearance, and 
partly to show Phakir the princess of the waters. 
The supposed Phakir and his mother found ready 
access to the Rajah's palace, for the old woman 
had, since the capture of the princess, become the 
most important person in the kingdom. She took 
him into the room where the princess was, and 
introduced him to her. It is superfluous to 
remark that the princess was by no means pleased 
with the company of a madcap, who was in a 
state of semi-nudity, whose body was rubbed with 
ashes, and who was ever and anon dancing in a 
wild manner. At sunset the old woman proposed 
to her son that they should leave the palace and 
go to their own house. But the supposed Phakir 
Chand refused to comply with the request ; he 
said he would stay there that night. His mother 
tried to persuade him to return with her, but he 
persisted in his determination. He said he would 
remain with the princess. Phakir's mother there- 
fore went away, after giving instructions to the 
guards and attendants to take care of her son. 

When all in the palace had retired to rest, the 
supposed Phakir, coming towards the princess, said 
in his own usual voice — " Princess ! do you not 
recognise me ? I am the minister's son, the friend of 
your princely husband." The princess, astonished 
at the announcement, said — "Who? The minister's 
son ? Oh, my husband's best friend, do rescue me 
from this terrible captivity, from this worse than 
death. O fate ! it is by my own fault that I am 

35 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL ii 

reduced to this wretched state. Oh, rescue me, 
rescue me, thou best of friends ! " She then burst 
into tears. The minister's son said, " Do not be 
disconsolate. I will try my best to rescue you this 
very night ; only you must do whatever I tell 
you." " I will do anything you tell me, minister's 
son ; anything you tell me." After this the sup- 
posed Phakir left the room, and passed through 
the courtyard of the palace. Some of the guards 
challenged him, to whom he replied, " Hoom, 
hoom ; I will just go out for a minute and 
again come in presently." They understood that 
it was the madcap Phakir. True to his word he 
did come back shortly, and went to the princess. 
An hour afterwards he again went out and was 
again challenged, on which he made the same 
reply as at the first time. The guards who 
challenged him began to mutter between their 
teeth — " This madcap of a Phakir will, we suppose, 
go out and come in all night. Let the fellow 
alone ; let him do what he likes. Who can be 
sitting up all night for him .? " The minister's son 
was going out and coming in with the view of 
accustoming the guards to his constant egress and 
ingress, and also of watching for a favourable 
opportunity to escape with the princess. About 
three o'clock in the morning the minister's son 
again passed through the courtyard, but this time 
no one challenged him, as all the guards had fallen 
asleep. Overjoyed at the auspicious circumstance, 
he went to the princess. " Now, princess, is the 
time for escape. The guards are all asleep. 

36 



II PHAKIR CHAND 

Mount on my back, and tie the locks of your hair 
round my neck, and keep tight hold of me." The 
princess did as she was told. He passed un- 
challenged through the courtyard with the lovely 
burden on his back, passed out of the gate of the 
palace — no one challenging him, passed on to the 
outskirts of the city, and reached the tank from 
which the princess had risen. The princess stood 
on her legs, rejoicing at her escape, and at the same 
time trembling. The minister's son untied the 
snake-jewel from his waist-cloth, and descending 
into the waters, both he and she found their way 
to the subterranean palace. The reception which 
the prince in the subaqueous palace gave to his 
wife and his friend may be easily imagined. He 
had nearly died of grief; but now he suffered a 
resurrection. The three were now mad with joy. 
During the three days that they remained in the 
palace they again and again told the story of the 
egress of the princess into the upper world, of her 
seizure, of her captivity in the palace, of the pre- 
parations for marriage, of the old woman, of the 
minister's son personating Phakir Chand, and of 
the successful deliverance. It is unnecessary to 
add that the prince and the princess expressed their 
gratitude to the minister's son in the warmest 
terms, declared him to be their best and greatest 
friend, and vowed to abide always, till the day of 
their death, by his advice, and to follow his counsel. 
Being resolved to return to their native country, 
the king's son, the minister's son, and the princess 
left the subterranean palace, and, lighted in the 

37 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL ii 

passage by the snake-jewel, made their way good 
to the upper world. As they had neither elephants 
nor horses, they were under the necessity of 
travelling on foot ; and though this mode of 
travelling was troublesome to both the king's son 
and the minister's son, as they were bred in the 
lap of luxury, it was infinitely more troublesome 
to the princess, as the stones of the rough road 

" Wounded the invisible 
Palms of her tender feet wherever they fell ^ 

When her feet became very sore, the king's son 
sometimes took her up on his broad shoulders, on 
which she sat astride ; but the load, however 
lovely, was too heavy to be carried any great 
distance. She therefore, for the most part, travelled 
on foot. 

One evening they bivouacked beneath a tree, 
as no human habitations were visible. The 
minister's son said to the prince and princess, "Both 
of you go to sleep, and I will keep watch in order 
to prevent any danger." The royal couple were 
soon locked in the arms of sleep. The faithful 
son of the minister did not sleep, but sat up 
watching. It so happened that on that tree swung 
the nest of the two immortal birds, Bihangama and 
Bihangami, who were not only endowed with the 
power of human speech, but who could see into 
the future. To the no little astonishment of the 
minister's son the two prophetical birds joined in 
the following conversation : — 

38 



II PHAKIR CHAND 

Bihangama. The minister's son has already 
risked his own life for the safety of his friend, the 
king's son ; but he will find it difficult to save the 
prince at last. 

Bihangami. Why so ? 

Bihangama. Many dangers await the king's 
son. The prince's father, when he hears of the 
approach of his son, will send for him an elephant, 
some horses, and attendants. When the king's 
son rides on the elephant he will fall down and die. 

Bihangami. But suppose some one prevents 
the king's son from riding on the elephant, and 
makes him ride on horseback, will he not in that 
case be saved ? 

Bihangama. Yes, he will in that case escape 
that danger, but a fresh danger awaits him. When 
the king's son is in sight of his father's palace, and 
when he is in the act of passing through its lion- 
gate, the lion-gate will fall upon him and crush 
him to death. 

Bihangami. But suppose some one destroys the 
lion-gate before the king's son goes up to it ; will 
not the king's son in that case be saved ? 

Bihangama. Yes, in that case he will escape 
that particular danger ; but a fresh danger awaits 
him. When the king's son reaches the palace and 
sits at a feast prepared for him, and when he takes 
into his mouth the head of a fish cooked for him, 
the head of the fish will stick in his throat and 
choke him to death. 

Bihangami. But suppose some one sitting at 
the feast snatches the head of the fish from the 

39 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL ii 

prince's plate, and thus prevents him from putting 
it into his mouth, will not the king's son in that 
case be saved ? 

Bihangama. Yes, in that case he w^ill escape 
that particular danger ; but a fresh danger awaits 
him. When the prince and princess after dinner 
retire into their sleeping apartment, and they lie 
together in bed, a terrible cobra will come into 
the room and bite the king's son to death. 

Bihangami. But suppose some one lying in 
wait in the room cut the snake into pieces, will 
not the king's son in that case be saved ? 

Bihangama. Yes, in that case the life of the 
king's son will be saved ; but if the man who kills 
the snake repeats to the king's son the conversation 
between you and me, that man will be turned into 
a marble statue. 

Bihangami. But is there no means of restoring 
the marble statue to life ? 

Bihangama. Yes, the marble statue may be 
restored to life if it is washed with the life-blood 
of the infant which the princess will give birth to, 
immediately after it is ushered into the world. 

The conversation of the prophetical birds had 
extended thus far when the crows began to caw, 
the east put on a reddish hue, and the travellers 
beneath the tree bestirred themselves. The con- 
versation stopped, but the minister's son had heard 
it all. 

The prince, the princess, and the minister's son 
pursued their journey in the morning ; but they 

had not walked many hours when they met a 

40 



II PHAKIR CHAND 

procession consisting of an elephant, a horse, 2ipalki, 
and a hirge number of attendants. These animals 
and men had been sent by the king, who had 
heard that his son, together with his newly married 
wife and his friend the minister's son, were not 
far from the capital on their journey homewards. 
The elephant, which was richly caparisoned, was 
intended for the prince ; the palki^ the framework 
of which was silver and was gaudily adorned, was- 
meant for the princess ; and the horse for the 
minister's son. As the prince was about to mount 
on the elephant, the minister's son went up to him 
and said — " Allow me to ride on the elephant, and 
you please ride on horseback." The prince was 
not a little surprised at the coolness of the proposal. 
He thought his friend was presuming too much 
on the services he had rendered ; he was therefore 
nettled, but remembering that his friend had saved 
both him and his wife, he said nothing, but quietly 
mounted the horse, though his mind became some- 
what alienated from him. The procession started, 
and after some time came in sight of the palace, 
the lion-gate of which had been gaily adorned for 
the reception of the prince and the princess. The 
minister's son told the prince that the lion-gate 
should be broken down before the prince could 
enter the palace. The prince was astounded at 
the proposal, especially as the minister's son gave 
no reasons for so extraordinary a request. His 
mind became still more estranged from him ; but 
in consideration of the services the minister's son 
had rendered, his request was complied with, and 

41 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL ii 

the beautiful lion-gate, with its gay decorations, 
was broken down. 

The party now went into the palace, where 
the king gave a warm reception to his son, to his 
daughter-in-law, and to the minister's son. When 
the story of their adventures was related, the king 
and his courtiers expressed great astonishment, and 
they all with one voice extolled the sagacity, 
prudence, and devotedness of the minister's son. 
The ladies of the palace were struck with the 
extraordinary beauty of the new-comer ; her com- 
plexion was milk and vermilion mixed together ; 
her neck was like that of a swan ; her eyes were 
like those of a gazelle ; her lips were as red as the 
berry bimba ; her cheeks were lovely ; her nose 
was straight and high ; her hair reached her 
ankles ; her walk was as graceful as that of a 
young elephant — such were the terms in which 
the connoisseurs of beauty praised the princess 
whom destiny had brought into the midst of them. 
They sat around her and put her a thousand 
questions regarding her parents, regarding the 
subterranean palace in which she formerly lived, 
and the serpent which had killed all her relatives. 
It was now time that the new arrivals should 
have their dinner. The dinner was served up in 
dishes of gold. All sorts of delicacies were there, 
amongst which the most conspicuous was the 
large head of a rohita fish placed in a golden cup 
near the prince's plate. While they were eating, 
the minister's son suddenly snatched the head of 
the fish from the prince's plate, and said, " Let me, 

42 



"He rushed out of his hiding-place and killed the serpent. 



II PHAKIR CHAND 

prince, eat this rohitas head." The king's son was 
quite indignant. He said nothing, however. The 
minister's son perceived that his friend was in a 
terrible rage ; but he could not help it, as his 
conduct, however strange, was necessary to the 
safety of his friend's life ; neither could he clear 
himself by stating the reason of his behaviour, as 
in that case he himself would be transformed into 
a marble statue. The dinner over, the minister's 
son expressed his desire to go to his own house. 
At other times the king's son would not allow his 
friend to go away in that fashion ; but being 
shocked at his strange conduct, he readily agreed 
to the proposal. The minister's son, however, 
had not the slightest notion of going to his own 
house ; he was resolved to avert the last peril that 
was to threaten the life of his friend. Accordingly, 
with a sword in his hand, he stealthily entered the 
room in which the prince and the princess were to 
sleep that night, and ensconced himself under the 
bedstead, which was furnished with mattresses of 
down and canopied with mosquito curtains of the 
richest silk and gold lace. Soon after dinner the 
prince and princess came into the bedroom, and 
undressing themselves went to bed. At midnight, 
while the royal couple were asleep, the minister's 
son perceived a snake of gigantic size enter the 
room through one of the water - passages, and 
climb up the tester-frame of the bed. He rushed 
out of his hiding-place, killed the serpent, cut it 
up in pieces, and put the pieces in the dish for 
holding betel-leaves and spices. It so happened, 

43 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL ii 

however, that as the minister's son was cutting the 
serpent into pieces, a drop of blood fell on the 
breast of the princess, and the rather as the 
mosquito curtains had not been let down. Think- 
ing that the drop of blood might injure the fair 
princess, he resolved to lick, it up. But as he 
regarded it as a great sin to look upon a young 
woman lying asleep half naked, he blindfolded 
himself with seven-fold cloth, and licked up the 
drop of blood. But while he was in the act of 
licking it, the princess awoke and screamed, and 
her scream roused her husband lying beside her. 
The prince seeing the minister's son, who he 
thought had gone away to his own house, bending 
over the body of his wife, fell into a great rage, 
and would have got up and killed him, had not 
the minister's son besought him to restrain his 
anger, adding — " Friend, I have done this only in 
order to save your life." " I do not understand 
what you mean," said the prince ; " ever since we 
came out of the subterranean palace you have been 
behaving in a most extraordinary way. In the 
first place, you prevented me from getting upon 
the richly caparisoned elephant, though my father, 
the king, had purposely sent it for me. I thought, 
however, that a sense of the services you had 
rendered to me had made you exceedingly vain ; I 
therefore let the matter pass, and mounted the 
horse. In the second place, you insisted on the 
destruction of the fine lion-gate, which my father 
had adorned with gay decorations ; and I let that 
matter also pass. Then, again, at dinner you 

44 



II PHAKIR CHAND 

snatched away, in a most shameful manner, the 
rohitas head which was on my plate, and devoured 
it yourself, thinking, no doubt, that you were 
entitled to higher honours than I. You then 
pretended that you were going home, for which 
I was not at all sorry, as you had made yourself 
very disagreeable to me. And now you are 
actually in my bedroom, bending over the naked 
bosom of my wife. You must have had some evil 
design ; and you pretend that you have done this 
to save my life. I fancy it was not for saving my 
life, but for destroying my wife's chastity." " Oh, 
do not harbour such thoughts in your mind against 
me. The gods know that I have done all this for 
the preservation of your life. You would see the 
reasonableness of my conduct throughout if I had 
the liberty of stating my reasons." " And why 
are you not at liberty .? " asked the prince ; " who 
has shut up your mouth ? " " It is destiny that 
has shut up my mouth," answered the minister's 
son ; " if I were to tell it all, I should be trans- 
formed into a marble statue." " You would be 
transformed into a marble statue ! " exclaimed the 
prince ; " you must take me to be a simpleton to 
believe this nonsense." " Do you wish me then, 
friend," said the minister's son, " to tell you all ? 
You must then make up your mind to see your 
friend turned into stone." " Come, out with it," 
said the prince, " or else ycu are a dead man." 
The minister's son, in order to clear himself of the 
foul accusation brought against him, deemed it his 
duty to reveal the secret at the risk of his life. 

45 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL ii 

He again and again warned the prince not to press 
him. But the prince remained inexorable. The 
minister's son then went on to say that, while 
bivouacking under a lofty tree one night, he had 
overheard a conversation between Bihangama and 
Bihangami, in which the former predicted all the 
dangers that were to threaten the life of the prince. 
When the minister's son had related the prediction 
concerning the mounting upon the elephant, his 
lower parts were turned into stone. He then, 
turning to the prince, said, " See, friend, my lower 
parts have already turned into stone." " Go on, go 
on," said the prince, " with your story." The 
minister's son then related the prophecy regarding 
the destruction of the lion-gate, when half of his 
body was converted into stone. He then related 
the prediction regarding the eating of the head 
of the fish, when his body up to his neck was 
petrified. " Now, friend," said the minister's son, 
" the whole of my body, excepting my neck and 
head, is petrified ; if I tell the rest, I shall assuredly 
become a man of stone. Do you wish me still to 
go on ? " "Go on," answered the prince, " go on." 
" Very well, 1 will go on to the end," said the 
minister's son ; " but in case you repent after 1 
have become turned into stone, and wish me to be 
restored to life, I will tell you of the manner in 
which it may be effected. The princess after a 
few months will be delivered of a child ; if im- 
mediately after the birth of the infant you kill it 
and besmear my marble body with its blood, I 
shall be restored to life." He then related the 

46 



II PHAKIR CHAND 

prediction regarding the serpent in the bedroom ; 
and when the last word was on his lips the rest of 
his body was turned into stone, and he dropped on 
the floor a marble image. The princess jumped 
out of bed, opened the vessel for betel-leaves and 
spices, and saw there pieces of a serpent. Both 
the prince and the princess now became convinced 
of the good faith and benevolence of their departed 
friend. They went to the marble figure, but it 
was lifeless. They set up a loud lamentation ; but 
it was to no purpose, for the marble moved not. 
They then resolved to keep the marble figure 
concealed in a safe place, and to besmear it with 
the blood of their first-born child when it should 
be ushered into existence. 

In process of time the hour of the princess's 
travail came on, and she was delivered of a 
beautiful boy, the perfect image of his mother. 
Both father and mother were struck with the 
beauty of their child, and would fain have spared 
its life ; but recollecting the vows they had made 
on behalf of their best friend, now lying in a 
corner of the room a lifeless stone, and the 
inestimable services he had rendered to both of 
them, they cut the child into two, and besmeared 
the marble figure of the minister's son with 
its blood. The marble became animated in a 
moment. The minister's son stood before the 
prince and princess, who became exceedingly glad 
to see their old friend again in life. But the 
minister's son, who saw the lovely new-born babe 
lying in a pool of blood, was overwhelmed with 

47 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL ii 

grief. He took up the dead infant, carefully 
wrapped it up in a towel, and resolved to get it 
restored to life. 

The minister's son, intent on the reanimation 
of his friend's child, consulted all the physicians 
of the country ; but they said that they would 
undertake to cure any person of any disease so 
long as life was in him, but when life was extinct, 
the case was beyond their jurisdiction. The 
minister's son at last bethought himself of his 
own wife, who was living in a distant town, and 
who was a devoted worshipper of the goddess 
Kali, who, through his wife's intercession, might 
be prevailed upon to give life to the dead child. 
He, accordingly, set out on a journey to the town 
in which his wife was living in her father's house. 
Adjoining that house there was a garden where 
upon a tree he hung the dead child wrapped up 
in a towel. His wife was overjoyed to see her 
husband after so long a time ; but to her surprise 
she found that he was very melancholy, that he 
spoke very little, and that he was brooding over 
something in his mind. She asked the reason of 
his melancholy, but he kept quiet. One night 
while they were lying together in bed, the wife 
got up and opening the door went out. The 
husband, who had little sleep any night in con- 
sequence of the weight of anxiety regarding the 
reanimation of his friend's child, perceiving his 
wife go out at that dead hour of night, determined 
to follow her without being noticed. She went 
to a temple of the goddess Kali, which was at no 

48 



II PHAKIR CHAND 

great distance from her house. She worshipped 
the goddess with flowers and sandal-wood perfume, 
and said, " O mother Kali ! have mercy upon me, 
and deliver me out of all my troubles." The 
goddess replied, " Why, what further grievance 
have you .? You long prayed for the return of 
your husband, and he has returned ; what aileth 
thee now .? " The woman answered, " True, O 
Mother, my husband has come to me, but he is 
very moody and melancholy, hardly speaks to me, 
takes no delight in me, only sits moping in a 
corner." To which the goddess rejoined, " Ask 
your husband what the reason of his melancholy 
is, and let me know it." The minister's son over- 
heard the conversation between the goddess and 
his wife, but he did not make his appearance ; he 
quietly slunk away before his wife and went to 
bed. The following day the wife asked her 
husband of the cause of his melancholy ; and he 
related all the particulars regarding the killing 
of the infant child of the prince. Next night 
at the same dead hour the wife proceeded 
to Kali's temple and mentioned to the goddess 
the reason of her husband's melancholy ; on 
which the goddess said, " Bring the child here 
and I will restore it to life." On the succeed- 
ing night the child was produced before the 
goddess Kali, and she called it back to life. 
Entranced with joy, the minister's son took 
up the reanimated child, went as fast as his 
legs could carry him to the prince and princess, 
and presented to them their child alive and 

49 E 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL ii 

well. They all rejoiced with exceeding great 
joy, and lived together happily till the day of 
their death. 

Thus my story endeth^ 

The Natiya-thorn withereth^ etc. 



50 



Ill 

THE INDIGENT BRAHMAN 

There was a Brahman who had a wife and four 
children. He was very poor. With no resources 
in the world, he lived chiefly on the benefactions 
of the rich. His gains were considerable when 
marriages were celebrated or funeral ceremonies 
were performed ; but as his parishioners did not 
marry every day, neither did they die every day, 
he found it difficult to make the two ends meet. 
His wife often rebuked him for his inability to 
give her adequate support, and his children often 
went about naked and hungry. But though poor 
he was a good man. He was diligent in his 
devotions ; and there was not a single day in his 
life in which he did not say his prayers at stated 
hours. His tutelary deity was the goddess Durga, 
the consort of Siva, the creative Energy of the 
Universe. On no day did he either drink water 
or taste food till he had written in red ink the 
name of Durga at least one hundred and eight 
times ; while throughout the day he incessantly 
uttered the ejaculation, " O Durga ! O Durga ! 
have mercy upon me." Whenever he felt anxious 

51 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL iii 

on account of his poverty and his inability to 
support his wife and children, he groaned out — 
" Durga ! Durga ! Durga ! " 

One day, being very sad, he went to a forest 
many miles distant from the village in which he 
lived, and indulging his grief wept bitter tears. 
He prayed in the following manner : — " O Durga ! 
O Mother Bhagavati ! wilt thou not make an end 
of my misery ? Were I alone in the world, I 
should not have been sad on account of poverty ; 
but thou hast given me a wife and children. Give 
me, O Mother, the means to support them." It 
so happened that on that day and on that very 
spot the god Siva and his wife Durga were taking 
their morning walk. The goddess Durga, on 
seeing the Brahman at a distance, said to her divine 
husband — " O Lord of Kailas ! do you see that 
Brahman ? He is always taking my name on his 
lips and offering the prayer that I should deliver 
him out of his troubles. Can we not, my lord, do 
something for the poor Brahman, oppressed as he 
is with the cares of a growing family? We should 
give him enough to make him comfortable. As 
the poor man and his family have never enough to 
eat, I propose that you give him a handi^ which 
should yield him an inexhaustible supply of 
mudkiy^ The lord of Kailas readily agreed to the 
proposal of his divine consort, and by his decree 
created on the spot a handi possessing the required 
quality. Durga then, calling the Brahman to her, 

1 Handi is an earthen pot, generally used in cooking food. 
2 Mudki, fried paddy boiled dry in treacle or sugar. 

52 



Ill THE INDIGENT BRAHMAN 

said, — "O Brahman! I have often thought of 
your pitiable case. Your repeated prayers have at 
last moved my compassion. Here is a handi for 
you. When you turn it upside down and shake it, 
it will pour down a never-ceasing shower of the 
finest 77iudki^ which will not end till you restore 
the handi to its proper position. Yourself, your 
wife, and your children can eat as much mudki as 
you like, and you can also sell as much as you 
like." The Brahman, delighted beyond measure at 
obtaining so inestimable a treasure, made obeisance 
to the goddess, and, taking the handi in his hand, 
proceeded towards his house as fast as his legs 
could carry him. But he had not gone many 
yards when he thought of testing the efficacy of 
the wonderful vessel. Accordingly he turned the 
handi upside down and shook it, when, lo, and 
behold ! a quantity of the finest mudki he had ever 
seen fell to the ground. He tied the sweetmeat 
in his sheet and walked on. It was now noon, 
and the Brahman was hungry ; but he could not 
eat without his ablutions and his prayers. As he 
saw in the way an inn, and not far from it a tank, 
he purposed to halt there that he might bathe, say 
his prayers, and then eat the much-desired mudki. 
The Brahman sat at the innkeeper's shop, put the 
handi near him, smoked tobacco, besmeared his 
body with mustard oil, and before proceeding to 
bathe in the adjacent tank gave the handi in charge 
to the innkeeper, begging him again and again to 
take especial care of it. 

When the Brahman went to his bath and his 

53 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL iii 

devotions, the innkeeper thought it strange that he 
should be so careful as to the safety of his earthen 
vessel. There must be something valuable in the 
handi^ he thought, otherwise why should the 
Brahman take so much thought about it ? His 
curiosity being excited he opened the handi^ and to 
his surprise found that it contained nothing. What 
can be the meaning of this \ thought the innkeeper 
within himself. Why should the Brahman care 
so much for an empty handi} He took up the 
vessel, and began to examine it carefully ; and 
when, in the course of examination, he turned the 
handi upside down, a quantity of the finest mudki 
fell from it, and went on falling without inter- 
mission. The innkeeper called his v^ife and 
children to witness this unexpected stroke of good 
fortune. The showers of the sugared fried paddy 
were so copious that they filled all the vessels and 
jars of the innkeeper. He resolved to appropriate 
to himself this precious handi, and accordingly put 
in its place another handi of the same size and 
make. The ablutions and devotions of the Brahman 
being now over, he came to the shop in wet 
clothes reciting holy texts of the Vedas. Putting 
on dry clothes, he wrote on a sheet of paper the 
name of Durga one hundred and eight times in 
red ink ; after which he broke his fast on the 
mudki his handi had already given him. Thus 
refreshed, and being about to resume his journey 
homewards, he called for his handi, which the inn- 
keeper delivered to him, adding — " There, sir, is 
your handi; it is just where you put it; no one 

54 



Ill THE INDIGENT BRAHMAN 

has touched It." The Brahman, without suspecting 
anything, took up the handi and proceeded on his 
journey ; and as he walked on, he congratulated 
himself on his singular good fortune. " How 
agreeably," he thought within himself, " will my 
poor wife be surprised ! How greedily the 
children will devour the mudki of heaven's own 
manufacture ! I shall soon become rich, and lift 
up my head with the best of them all." The 
pains of travelling were considerably alleviated by 
these joyful anticipations. He reached his house, 
and calling his wife and children, said — " Look 
now at what I have brought. This handi that you 
see is an unfailing source of wealth and content- 
ment. You will see what a stream of the finest 
??2iidki will flow from it when I turn it upside 
down." The Brahman's good wife, hearing of 
mudki falling from the handi unceasingly, thought 
that her husband must have gone mad ; and she 
was confirmed in her opinion when she found that 
nothing fell from the vessel though it was turned 
upside down again and again. Overwhelmed with 
grief, the Brahman concluded that the innkeeper 
must have played a trick with him ; he must have 
stolen the handi Durga had given him, and put a 
common one in its stead. He went back the next 
day to the innkeeper, and charged him with having 
changed his handi. The innkeeper put on a fit of 
anger, expressed surprise at the Brahman's impu- 
dence in charging him with theft, and drove him 
away from his shop. 

The Brahman then bethought himself of an 

55 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL iii 

interview with the goddess Durga who had given 
him the handi, and accordingly went to the forest 
where he had met her. Siva and Durga again 
favoured the Brahman with an interview. Durga 
said — " So, you have lost the handi I gave you. 
Here is another, take it and make good use of it." 
The Brahman, elated with joy, made obeisance to 
the divine couple, took up the vessel, and went on 
his way. He had not gone far when he turned it 
upside down, and shook it in order to see whether 
any mudki would fall from it. Horror of horrors ! 
instead of sweetmeats about a score of demons, 
of gigantic size and grim visage, jumped out of 
the handi^ and began to belabour the astonished 
Brahman with blows, fisticuffs and kicks. He 
had the presence of mind to turn up the handi 
and to cover it, when the demons forthwith dis- 
appeared. He concluded that this new hatidi had 
been given him only for the punishment of the 
innkeeper. He accordingly went to the innkeeper, 
gave him the new handi in charge, begged of him 
carefully to keep it till he returned from his 
ablutions and prayers. The innkeeper, delighted 
with this second godsend, called his wife and 
children, and said — "This is another handi brought 
here by the same Brahman who brought the handi 
of mudki. This time, I hope, it is not mudki but 
sandesa} Come, be ready with baskets and vessels, 
and ril turn the handi upside down and shake it." 
This was no sooner done than scores of fierce 
demons started up, who caught hold of the inn- 

1 A sort of sweetmeat made of curcis and sugar. 
56 



"Instead of sweetmeats about a score of demons." 




W*. «.>*,, rr^Goai-t 



Ill THE INDIGENT BRAHMAN 

keeper and his family and belaboured them merci- 
lessly. They also began upsetting the shop, and 
would have completely destroyed it, if the victims 
had not besought the Brahman, who had by this 
time returned from his ablutions, to show mercy 
to them and send away the terrible demons. The 
Brahman acceded to the innkeeper's request, he 
dismissed the demons by shutting up the vessel ; 
he got the former handi, and with the two handis 
went to his native village. 

On reaching home the Brahman shut the door 
of his house, turned the mudki-handi upside down, 
and shook it ; the result was an unceasing stream 
of the finest mudki that any confectioner in the 
country could produce. The man, his wife, and 
their children devoured the sweetmeat to their 
hearts' content ; all the available earthen pots and 
pans of the house were filled with it ; and the 
Brahman resolved the next day to turn confectioner, 
to open a shop in his house, and sell mudki. On 
the very day the shop was opened, the whole 
village came to the Brahman's house to buy the 
wonderful mudki. They had never seen such mudki 
in their life, it was so sweet, so white, so large, so 
luscious ; no confectioner in the village or any 
town in the country had ever manufactured any- 
thing like it. The reputation of the Brahman's 
mudki extended, in a few days, beyond the bounds 
of the village, and people came from remote parts 
to purchase it. Cartloads of the sweetmeat were 
sold every day, and the Brahman in a short time 
became very rich. He built a large brick house, 

57 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL iii 

and lived like a nobleman of the land. Once, 
however, his -property was about to go to wreck 
and ruin. His children one day by mistake shook 
the wrong handi^ when a large number of demons 
dropped down and caught hold of the Brahman's 
wife and children and were striking them merci- 
lessly, when happily the Brahman came into the 
house and turned up the handi. In order to 
prevent a similar catastrophe in future, the Brahman 
shut up the demon-/z^/;^/ in a private room to 
which his children had no access. 

Pure and uninterrupted prosperity, however, is 
not the lot of mortals ; and though the demon- 
handi was put aside, what security was there that 
an accident might not befall the mudki-handi ? 
One day, during the absence of the Brahman and 
his wife from the house, the children decided upon 
shaking the harrdi ; but as each of them wished to 
enjoy the pleasure of shaking it there was a general 
struggle to get it, and in the melee the handi fell 
to the ground and broke. It is needless to say 
that the Brahman, when on reaching home he heard 
of the disaster, became inexpressibly sad. The 
children were of course well cudgelled, but no 
flogging of children could replace the magical 
handi. After some days he again went to the 
forest, and offered many a prayer for Durga's favour. 
At last Siva and Durga again appeared to him, and 
heard how the handi had been broken. Durga 
gave him another handi^ accompanied with the 
following caution — "Brahman, take care of this 
handi \ if you again break it or lose it, I'll not give 

58 



Ill THE INDIGENT BRAHMAN 

you another." The Brahman made obeisance, and 
went away to his house at one stretch without 
halting anywhere. On reaching home he shut the 
door of his house, called his wife to him, turned 
the ImmU upside down, and began to shake it. 
They were only expecting miidki to drop from it, 
but instead ol mudki 2, perennial stream of beautiful 
safidesa issued from it. And such sandesa ! No 
confectioner of Burra Bazar ever made its like. It 
was more the food of gods than of men. The 
Brahman forthwith set up a shop for selling sandesa, 
the fame of which soon drew crowds of customers 
from all parts of the country. At all festivals, at 
all marriage feasts, at all funeral celebrations, at all 
Pujas, no one bought any other sandesa than the 
Brahman's. Every day, and every hour, many jars 
of gigantic size, filled with the delicious sweet- 
meat, were sent to all parts of the country. 

The wealth of the Brahman excited the envy 
of the Zemindar of the village, who, having heard 
that the sandesa was not manufactured but dropped 
from a handi, devised a plan for getting possession 
of the miraculous vessel. At the celebration of his 
son's marriage he held a great feast, to which were 
mvited hundreds of people. As many mountain- 
loads of sandesa would be required for the purpose, 
the Zemindar proposed that the Brahman should 
brmg the magical handi to the house in which the 
feast was held. The Brahman at first refused to 
take It there ; but as the Zemindar insisted on its 
bemg carried to his own house, he reluctantly 
consented to take it there. After many Himalayas 

59 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL m 

of sandesa had been shaken out, the handi was 
taken possession of by the Zemindar, and the 
Brahman was insulted and driven out of the house. 
The Brahman, without giving vent to anger in the 
least, quietly went to his house, and taking the 
demon-/z.'7;/^/ in his hand, came back to the door of 
the Zemindar's house. He turned the handi upside 
down and shook it, on which a hundred demons 
started up as from the vasty deep and enacted a 
scene which it is impossible to describe. The 
hundreds of guests that had been bidden to the 
feast were caught hold of by the unearthly visitants 
and beaten ; the women were dragged by their hair 
from the Zenana and dashed about amongst the 
men ; while the big and burly Zemindar was 
driven about from room to room like a bale of 
cotton. If the demons had been allowed to do 
their will only for a few minutes longer, all the men 
would have been killed, and the very house razed 
to the ground. The Zemindar fell prostrate at 
the feet of the Brahman and begged for mercy. 
Mercy was shown him, and the demons were 
removed. After that the Brahman was no more 
disturbed by the Zemindar or by any one else ; 
and he lived many years in great happiness and 
enjoyment. 

Thus my story endeth^ 

The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc. 



60 



IV 
THE STORY OF THE RAKSHASAS 

There was a poor half-witted Brahman who had a 
wife but no children. It was only with difficulty- 
he could supply the wants of himself and his wife. 
And the worst of it was that he was rather lazily 
inclined. He was averse to taking long journeys, 
otherwise he might always have had enough, in the 
shape of presents from rich men, to enable him and 
his wife to live comfortably. There was at that 
time a king in a neighbouring country who was 
celebrating the funeral obsequies of his mother 
with great pomp. Brahmans and beggars were 
going from different parts with the expectation 
of receiving rich presents. Our Brahman was 
requested by his wife to seize this opportunity and 
get a little money ; but his constitutional indolence 
stood in the way. The woman, however, gave her 
husband no rest till she extorted from him the 
promise that he would go. The good woman, 
accordingly, cut down a plantain tree and burnt it 
to ashes, with which ashes she cleaned the clothes of 
her husband, and made them as white as any fuller 

could make them. She did this because her 

6i 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL iv 

husband was going to the palace of a great king, who 
could not be approached by men clothed in dirty 
rags ; besides, as a Brahman, he was bound to 
appear neat and clean. The Brahman at last one 
morning left his house for the palace of the great 
king. As he was somewhat imbecile, he did not 
inquire of any one which road he should take ; 
but he went on and on, and proceeded whithersoever 
his two eyes directed him. He was of course not 
on the right road, indeed he had reached a region 
where he did not meet with a single human being 
for many miles, and where he saw sights which he 
had never seen in his life. He saw hillocks of 
cowris (shells used as money) on the roadside : he 
had not proceeded far from them when he saw 
hillocks of pice, then successively hillocks of four- 
anna pieces,hillocks of eight-anna pieces,and hillocks 
of rupees. To the infinite surprise of the poor 
Brahman, these hillocks of shining silver coins were 
succeeded by a large hill of burnished gold-mohurs, 
which were all as bright as if they had been just 
issued from the mint. Close to this hill of gold- 
mohurs was a large house which seemed to be the 
palace of a powerful and rich king, at the door of 
which stood a lady of exquisite beauty. The lady, 
seeing the Brahman, said, ' Come, my beloved 
husband ; you married me when I was young, and 
you never came once after our marriage, though I 
have been daily expecting you. Blessed be this 
day which has made me see the face of my husband. 
Come, my sweet, come in, wash your feet and rest 

after the fatigues of your journey ; eat and drink, 

62 



" At the door of which stood a lady of exquisite beauty. 




X:.. 



WA,r< ^ 



IV THE STORY OF THE RAKSHASAS 

and after that we shall make ourselves merry." 
The Brahman w^as astonished beyond measure. He 
had no recollection of having been married in 
early youth to any other woman than the woman 
who was now keeping house with him. But being 
a Kulin Brahman, he thought it was quite possible 
that his father had got him married when he was a 
little child, though the fact had made no impression 
on his mind. But whether he remembered it or 
not, the fact was certain, for the woman declared 
that she was his wedded wife, — and such a wife ! 
as beautiful as the goddesses of Indra's heaven, and 
no doubt as wealthy as she was beautiful. While 
these thoughts were passing through the Brahman's 
mind, the lady said again, " Are you doubting in 
your mind whether I am your wife .? Is it possible 
that all recollection of that happy event has been 
effaced from your mind — all the pomp and circum- 
stance of our nuptials .? Come in, beloved ; this is 
your own house, for whatever is mine is thine." 
The Brahman succumbed to the loving entreaties of 
the fair lady, and went into the house. The house 
was not an ordinary one — it was a magnificent 
palace, all the apartments being large and lofty and 
richly furnished. But one thing surprised the 
Brahman very much, and that was that there was 
no other person in the house besides the lady 
herself. He could not account for so singular a 
phenomenon ; neither could he explain how it was 
that he did not meet with any human being in his 
morning and evening walks. The fact was that 
the lady was not a human being. She was a 

63 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL iv 

Rakshasi} She had eaten up the king, the queen, 
and all the members of the royal family, and 
gradually all his subjects. This was the reason 
why human beings were not seen in those parts. 

The Rakshasi and the Brahman lived together 
for about a week, when the former said to the 
latter, " I am very anxious to see my sister, your 
other wife. You must go and fetch her, and we 
shall all live together happily in this large and 
beautiful house. You must go early to-morrow, 
and I will give you clothes and jewels for her." 
Next morning the Brahman, furnished with fine 
clothes and costly ornaments, set out for his home. 
The poor woman was in great distress ; all the 
Brahmans and Pandits that had been to the funeral 
ceremony of the king's mother had returned home 
loaded with largesses ; but her husband had not 
returned, — and no one could give any news of him, 
for no one had seen him there. The woman 
therefore concluded that he must have been 
murdered on the road by highwaymen. She was 
in this terrible suspense, when one day she heard 
a rumour in the village that her husband was seen 
coming home with fine clothes and costly jewels 
for his wife. And sure enough the Brahman soon 
appeared with his valuable load. On seeing his 
wife the Brahman thus accosted her : — " Come 
with me, my dearest wife ; I have found my first 
wife. She lives in a stately palace, near w^hich are 

1 Rakshasas and Rakshasis (male and female) arc in Hindu mythology huge 
giants and giantesses, or rather demons. The word means literally ranjo-eaters ; 
they were probably the chiefs of the aborigines whom the Aryans overthrew 
on their first settlement in the country. 

64 



IV THE STORY OF THE RAKSHASAS 

hillocks of rupees and a large hill of gold-mohurs. 
Why should you pine away in wretchedness and 
misery in this horrible place ? Come with me to 
the house of my first wife, and we shall all live 
together happily." When the woman heard her 
husband speak of his first wife, of hillocks of 
rupees and of a hill of gold-mohurs, she thought 
in her mind that her half-witted good man had 
become quite mad ; but when she saw the ex- 
quisitely beautiful silks and satins and the ornaments 
set with diamonds and precious stones, which only 
queens and princesses were in the habit of putting 
on, she concluded in her mind that her poor 
husband had fallen into the meshes of a Rakshasi. 
The Brahman, however, insisted on his wife's 
going with him, and declared that if she did not 
come she was at liberty to pine away in poverty, 
but that for himself he meant to return forthwith 
to his first and rich wife. The good woman, after 
a great deal of altercation with her husband, 
resolved to go with him and judge for herself how 
matters stood. They set out accordingly the next 
morning, and went by the same road on which the 
Brahman had travelled. The woman was not a 
little surprised to see hillocks of cowris^ of pice, of 
eight-anna pieces, of rupees, and last of all a lofty 
hill of gold-mohurs. She saw also an exceedingly 
beautiful lady coming out of the palace hard by, 
and hastening towards her. The lady fell on the 
neck of the Brahman woman, wept tears of joy, 
and said, " Welcome, beloved sister ! this is the 
happiest day of my life ! I have seen the face of 

65 F 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL iv 

my dearest sister ! " The party then entered the 
palace. 

What with the stately mansion in which he 
was lodged, with the most delectable provisions 
which seemed to rise as if by enchantment, what 
with the caresses and endearments of his two wives, 
the one human and the other demoniac, who vied 
with each other in making him happy and com- 
fortable, the Brahman had a jolly time of it. He 
was steeped as it were in an ocean of enjoyment. 
Some fifteen or sixteen years were spent by the 
Brahman in this state of Elysian pleasure, during 
which period his two wives presented him with 
two sons. The Rakshasi's son, who was the elder, 
and who looked more like a god than a human 
being, w^as named Sahasra Dal, literally the 
Thousand-Branched ; and the son of the Brahman 
woman, who was a year younger, was named 
Champa Dal, that is, branch of a champaka tree. 
The two boys loved each other dearly. They 
were both sent to a school which was several miles 
distant, to which they used every day to go riding 
on two little ponies of extraordinary fleetness. 

The Brahman woman had all along suspected 
from a thousand little circumstances that her sister- 
in-law was not a human being but a Rakshasi ; 
but her suspicion had not yet ripened into certainty, 
for the Rakshasi exercised great self-restraint on 
herself, and never did anything which human 
beings did not do. But the demoniac nature, like 
murder, will out. The Brahman having nothing 

to do, in order to pass his time had recourse to 

66 



IV THE STORY OF THE RAKSHASAS 

hunting. The first day he returned from the hunt, 
he had bagged an antelope. The antelope was laid 
in the courtyard of the palace. At the sight of the 
antelope the mouth of the raw-eating Rakshasi 
began to water. Before the animal was dressed 
for the kitchen, she took it away into a room, and 
began devouring it. The Brahman woman, who 
was watching the whole scene from a secret place, 
saw her Rakshasi sister tear off a leg of the antelope, 
and opening her tremendous jaws, which seemed to 
her imagination to extend from earth to heaven, 
swallow it up. In this manner the body and 
other limbs of the antelope were devoured, till 
only a little bit of the meat was kept for the 
kitchen. The second day another antelope was 
bagged, and the third day another ; and the 
Rakshasi, unable to restrain her appetite for raw 
flesh, devoured these two as she had devoured the 
first. On the third day the Brahman woman ex- 
pressed to the Rakshasi her surprise at the disap- 
pearance of nearly the whole of the antelope with 
the exception of a little bit. The Rakshasi looked 
fierce and said, " Do I eat raw flesh ? " To which 
the Brahman woman replied, " Perhaps you do, 
for aught 1 know to the contrary." The Rakshasi, 
knowing herself to be discovered, looked fiercer 
than before, and vowed revenge. The Brahman 
woman concluded in her mind that the doom of 
herself, of her husband, and of her son was sealed. 
She spent a miserable night, believing that next 
day she would be killed and eaten up, and that her 
husband and son would share the same fate. Early 

67 ^ 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL iv 

next morning, before her son Champa Dal went to 
school, she gave him in a small golden vessel a 
little quantity of her own breast milk, and told 
him to be constantly watching its colour. " Should 
you," she said, " see the milk get a little red, then 
conclude that your father has been killed ; and 
should you see it grow still redder, then conclude 
that I am killed : when you see this, gallop away 
for your life as fast as your horse can carry you, for 
if you do not, you also will be devoured." 

The Rakshasi on getting up from bed — and 
she had prevented the Brahman overnight from 
having any communication with his wife — proposed 
that she and the Brahman should go to bathe in 
the river, which was at some distance. She would 
take no denial ; the Brahman had therefore to 
follow her as meekly as a lamb. The Brahman 
woman at once saw from the proposal that ruin 
was impending ; but it was beyond her power to 
avert the catastrophe. The Rakshasi, on the river- 
side, assuming her own proper gigantic dimensions, 
took hold of the ill-fated Brahman, tore him limb 
by limb, and devoured him up. She then ran to 
her house, and seized the Brahman woman, and 
put her into her capacious stomach, clothes, hair 
and all. Young Champa Dal, who, agreeably to 
his mother's instructions, was diligently watching 
the milk in the small golden vessel, was horror- 
struck to find the milk redden a little. He set up 
a cry and said that his father was killed ; a few 
minutes after, finding the milk become completely 

red, he cried yet louder, and rushing to his pony, 

68 



IV THE STORY OF THE RAKSHASAS 

mounted it. His half-brother, Sahasra Dal, sur- 
prised at Champa Dai's conduct, said, " Where are 
you going, Champa ? Why are you crying ? Let 
me accompany you." " Oh ! do not come to me. 
Your mother has devoured my father and mother ; 
don't you come and devour me." "I will not 
devour you; I'll save you." Scarcely had he 
uttered these words and galloped away after 
Champa Dal, when he saw his mother in her own 
Rakshasi form appearing at a distance, and de- 
mandmg that Champa Dal should come to her. 
He said, " I will come to you, not Champa." So 
saying, he went to his mother, and with his sword, 
which he always wore as a young prince, cut off 
her head. 

Champa Dal had, in the meantime, galloped 
off a good distance, as he was running for his life • 
but Sahasra Dal, by pricking his horse repeatedly' 
soon overtook him, and told him that his mother 
was no more. This was small consolation to 
Champa Dal, as the Rakshasi, before being killed 
had devoured both his father and mother ; still he 
could not but feel that Sahasra Dai's friendship was 
sincere. They both rode fast, and as their horses 
were of the breed oi pakshirajes (literdly, kings of 
birds), they travelled over hundreds of miles. An 
hour or two before sundown they descried a village 
to which they made up, and became guests in the 
house of one of its most respectable inhabitants. 
The two friends found the members of that 
respectable family in deep gloom. Evidently 
there was something agitating them very much. 

69 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL iv 

Some of them held private consultations, and 
others were weeping. The eldest lady of the 
house, the mother of its head, said aloud, " Let 
me go, as I am the eldest. I have lived long 
enough ; at the utmost my life would be cut short 
only by a year or two." The youngest member 
of the house, who was a little girl, said, " Let me 
go, as I am young and useless to the family ; if I 
die I shall not be missed." The head of the 
house, the son of the old lady, said, " I am the head 
and representative of the family ; it is but reason- 
able that I should give up my life." His younger 
brother said, " You are the main prop and pillar of 
the family ; if you go the whole family is ruined. 
It is not reasonable that you should go ; let me 
go, as I shall not be much missed." The two 
strangers listened to all this conversation with no 
little curiosity. They wondered what it all meant. 
Sahasra Dal at last, at the risk of being thought 
meddlesome, ventured to ask the head of the house 
the subject of their consultations, and the reason 
of the deep misery but too visible in their 
countenances and words. The head of the house 
gave the following answer : " Know then, worthy 
guests, that this part of the country is infested by 
a terrible Rakshasi, who has depopulated all the 
regions round. This town, too, would have been 
depopulated, but that our king became a suppliant 
before the Rakshasi, and begged her to show 
mercy to us his subjects. The Rakshasi replied, 
' I will consent to show mercy to you and to your 

subjects only on this condition, that you every 

70 



IV THE STORY OF THE RAKSHASAS 

night put a human being, either male or female, 
in a certain temple for me to feast upon. If I get 
a human being every night I will rest satisfied, 
and not commit any further depredations on your 
subjects.' Our king had no other alternative than 
to agree to this condition, for what human beings 
can ever hope to contend against a Rakshasi ? 
From that day the king made it a rule that every 
family in the town should in its turn send one of 
its members to the temple as a victim to appease 
the wrath and to satisfy the hunger of the terrible 
Rakshasi. All the families in this neighbourhood 
have had their turn, and this night it is the turn 
for one of us to devote himself to destruction. 
We are therefore discussing who should go. You 
must now perceive the cause of our distress." 
The two friends consulted together for a few 
minutes, and at the conclusion of their consulta- 
tions, Sahasra Dal, who was the spokesman of the 
party, said, " Most worthy host, do not any longer 
be sad : as you have been very kind to us, we 
have resolved to requite your hospitality by 
ourselves going to the temple and becoming the 
food of the Rakshasi. We go as your repre- 
sentatives." The whole family protested against 
the proposal. They declared that guests were like 
gods, and that it was the duty of the host to 
endure all sorts of privation for the comfort of the 
guest, and not the duty of the guest to suffer for the 
host. But the two strangers insisted on standing 
proxy to the family, who, after a great deal of yea 
and nay, at last consented to the arrangement. 

71 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL iv 

Immediately after candle-light, Sahasra Dal and 
Champa Dal, with their two horses, installed them- 
selves in the temple, and shut the door. Sahasra 
told his brother to go to sleep, as he himself was 
determined to sit up the whole night and watch 
against the coming of the terrible Rakshasi. 
Champa was soon in a fine sleep, while Sahasra 
lay awake. Nothing happened during the early 
hours of the night, but no sooner had the gong of 
the king's palace announced the dead hour of mid- 
night than Sahasra heard the sound as of a rushing 
tempest, and immediately concluded, from his 
knowledge of Rakshasas, that the Rakshasi was 
nigh. A thundering knock was heard at the door, 
accompanied with the following words : — 

** How, mow, khow ! 
A human being I smell ; 
Who watches inside f " 

To this question Sahasra Dal made the follow- 
ing reply : — 

" Sahasra Dal watcheth, 
Champa Dal watcheth. 
Two winged horses watch^ 

On hearing this answer the Rakshasi turned 
away with a groan, knowing that Sahasra Dal had 
Rakshasa blood in his veins. An hour after, the 
Rakshasi returned, thundered at the door, and 
called out — 

72 



IV THE STORY OF THE RAKSHASAS 

*' How, mow, khow ! 
A human being I smell ; 
IVho watcheth inside ? " 

Sahasra Dal again replied — 



<c 



Sahasra Dal watcheth, 
Champa Dal watcheth. 
Two winged horses watch. 



>> 



The Rakshasi again groaned and went away. 
At two o'clock and at three o'clock the Rakshasi 
again and again made her appearance, and made 
the usual inquiry, and obtaining the same answer, 
went away with a groan. After three o'clock, 
however, Sahasra Dal felt very sleepy : he could 
not any longer keep awake. He therefore roused 
Champa, told him to watch, and strictly enjoined 
upon him, in reply to the query of the Rakshasi, 
to mention Sahasra's name first. With these in- 
structions he went to sleep. At four o'clock the 
Rakshasi again made her appearance, thundered 
at the door, and said — 

" How, mow, khow ! 
A human being I smell ; 
Who watches inside ? " 

As Champa Dal was in a terrible fright, he 
forgot the instructions of his brother for the 
moment, and answered — 

73 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL iv 

" Champa Dal watcheth^ 
Sahasra Dal watcheth. 
Two winged horses watchT 

On hearing this reply the Rakshasi uttered a 
shout of exultation, laughed such a laugh as only 
demons can, and with a dreadful noise broke open 
the door. The noise roused Sahasra, who in a 
moment sprung to his feet, and with his sword, 
which was as supple as a palm-leaf, cut off the 
head of the Rakshasi. The huge mountain of a 
body fell to the ground, making a great noise, and 
lay covering many an acre. Sahasra Dal kept the 
severed head of the Rakshasi near him, and went to 
sleep. Early in the morning some wood-cutters, 
who were passing near the temple, saw the huge 
body on the ground. They could not from a 
distance make out what it was, but on coming 
near they knew that it was the carcase of the 
terrible Rakshasi, who had by her voracity nearly 
depopulated the country. Remembering the pro- 
mise made by the king that the killer of the 
Rakshasi should be rewarded by the hand of his 
daughter and with a share of the kingdom, each of 
the wood- cutters, seeing no claimant at hand, 
thought of obtaining the reward. Accordingly 
each of them cut off a part of a limb of the huge 
carcase, went to the king, and represented himself 
to be the destroyer of the great raw-eater, and 
claimed the reward. The king, in order to find 
out the real hero and deliverer, inquired of his 
minister the name of the family whose turn it was 

74 



IV THE STORY OF THE RAKSHASAS 

on the preceding night to ofFer a victim to the 
Rakshasi. The head of that family, on being 
brought before the king, related hov^ two youth- 
ful travellers, who were guests in his house, 
volunteered to go into the temple in the room of a 
member of his family. The door of the temple 
was broken open ; Sahasra Dal and Champa Dai 
and their horses were found all safe ; and the head 
of the Rakshasi, which was with them, proved 
beyond the shadow of a doubt that they had killed 
the monster. The king kept his word. He gave 
his daughter in marriage to Sahasra Dal and the 
sovereignty of half his dominions. Champa Dal 
remained with his friend in the king's palace, and 
rejoiced in his prosperity. 

Sahasra Dal and Champa Dal lived together 
happily for some time, when a misunderstanding 
arose between them in this wise. There was in 
the service of the queen-mother a certain maid- 
servant who was the most useful domestic in the 
palace. There was nothing which she could not 
put her hands to and perform. She had uncommon 
strength for a woman ; neither was her intelligence 
of a mean order. She was a woman of immense 
activity and energy ; and if she were absent one 
day from the palace, the affairs of the zenana 
would be in perfect disorder. Hence her services 
were highly valued by the queen-mother and all 
the ladies of the palace. But this woman was not 
a woman ; she was a Rakshasi, who had put on 
the appearance of a woman to serve some purposes 
of her own, and then taken service in the royal 

75 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL iv 

household. At night, when every one in the 
palace was asleep, she used to assume her own real 
form, and go about in quest of food, for the 
quantity of food that is sufficient for either man or 
woman was not sufficient for a Rakshasi. Now 
Champa Dal, having no wife, was in the habit of 
sleeping outside the zenana, and not far from the 
outer gate of the palace. He had noticed her 
going about on the premises and devouring sundry 
goats and sheep, horses and elephants. The maid- 
servant, finding that Champa Dal was in the way 
of her supper, determined to get rid of him. She 
accordingly went one day to the queen- mother, 
and said, " Queen-mother ! I am unable any longer 
to work in the palace." "Why? what is the 
matter, Dasi ? ^ How can I get on without you ? 
Tell me your reasons. What ails you ? " " Why," 
said the woman, " nowadays it is impossible for a 
poor woman like me to preserve my honour in the 
palace. There is that Champa Dal, the friend of 
your son-in-law ; he always cracks indecent jokes 
with me. It is better for me to beg for my rice 
than to lose my honour. If Champa Dal remains 
in the palace I must go away." As the maid- 
servant was an absolute necessity in the palace, the 
queen-mother resolved to sacrifice Champa Dal to 
her. She therefore told Sahasra Dal that Champa 
Dal was a bad man, that his character was loose, 
and that therefore he must leave the palace. 
Sahasra Dal earnestly pleaded on behalf of his 
friend, but in vain ; the queen-mother had made 

^ Dasi is a general name for all maid-servants. 
76 




wa«.»vici<. GoBt-e: 



" In a trice she woke up, sat up in her bed, and eyeing 
the stranger, inquired who he was." 



IV THE STORY OF THE RAKSHASAS 

up her mind to drive him out of the palace. 
Sahasra Dal had not the courage to speak personally 
to his friend on the subject ; he therefore v^^rote a 
letter to him, in which he simply said that for 
certain reasons Champa must leave the palace 
immediately. The letter was put in his room after 
he had gone to bathe. On reading the letter 
Champa Dal, exceedingly grieved, mounted his 
fleet horse and left the palace. 

As Champa's horse was uncommonly fleet, in 
a few hours he traversed thousands of miles, and 
at last found himself at the gateway of what seemed 
a magnificent palace. Dismounting from his horse, 
he entered the house, where he did not meet with 
a single creature. He went from apartment to 
apartment, but though they were all richly fur- 
nished he did not see a single human being. At 
last, in one of the side rooms, he found a young 
lady of heavenly beauty lying down on a splendid 
bedstead. She was asleep. Champa Dal looked 
upon the sleeping beauty with rapture — he had 
not seen any woman so beautiful. Upon the bed, 
near the head of the young lady, were two sticks, 
one of silver and the other of gold. Champa took 
the silver stick into his hand, and touched with it 
the body of the lady ; but no change was per- 
ceptible. He then took up the gold stick and laid 
it upon the lady, when in a trice she woke up, sat 
in her bed, and eyeing the stranger, inquired who 
he was. Champa Dal briefly told his story. The 
young lady, or rather princess — for she was nothing 
less — said, " Unhappy man ! why have you come 

n 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL iv 

here ? This is the country of Rakshasas, and in 
this house and round about there live no less than 
seven hundred Rakshasas. They all go away to 
the other side of the ocean every morning in search 
of provisions ; and they all return every evening 
before dusk. My father v^^as formerly king in 
these regions, and had millions of subjects, w^ho 
lived in flourishing towns and cities. But some 
years ago the invasion of the Rakshasas took place, 
and they devoured all his subjects, and himself and 
my mother, and my brothers and sisters. They 
devoured also all the cattle of the country. There 
is no living human being in these regions excepting 
myself ; and I too should long ago have been 
devoured had not an old Rakshasi, conceiving 
strange affection for me, prevented the other 
Rakshasas from eating me up. You see those 
sticks of silver and gold ; the old Rakshasi, when 
she goes away in the morning, kills me with the 
silver stick, and on her return in the evening 
re-animates me with the gold stick. I do not 
know how to advise you ; if the Rakshasas see 
you, you are a dead man." Then they both talked 
to each other in a very affectionate manner, and 
laid their heads together to devise if possible some 
means of escape from the hands of the Rakshasas. 
The hour of the return of the seven hundred raw- 
eaters was fast approaching ; and Keshavati — for 
that was the name of the princess, so called from 
the abundance of her hair — told Champa to hide 
himself in the heaps of the sacred trefoil which 
were lying in the temple of Siva in the central 

78 



IV THE STORY OF THE RAKSHASAS 

part of the palace. Before Champa went to his 
place of concealment, he touched Keshavati with 
the silver stick, on which she instantly died. 

Shortly after sunset Champa Dal heard from 
beneath the heaps of the sacred trefoil the sound 
as of a mighty rushing wind. Presently he heard 
terrible noises in the palace. The Rakshasas had 
come home from cruising, after having filled their 
stomachs, each one, with sundry goats, sheep, cows, 
horses, buffaloes, and elephants. The old Rakshasi, 
of whom we have already spoken, came to Kesha- 
vati's room, roused her by touching her body with 
the gold stick, and said — 

" Hye, mye^ khye ! 
A human being I smell.'' 

On which Keshavati said, " I am the only human 
being here ; eat me if you like." To which the 
raw-eater replied, " Let me eat up your enemies ; 
why should I eat you ? " She laid herself down 
on the ground, as long and as high as the Vindhya 
Hills, and presently fell asleep. The other Rak- 
shasas and Rakshasis also soon fell asleep, being all 
tired out on account of their gigantic labours in 
the day. Keshavati also composed herself to sleep ; 
while Champa, not daring to come out of the 
heaps of leaves, tried his best to court the god of 
repose. At daybreak all the raw - eaters, seven 
hundred in number, got up and went as usual to 
their hunting and predatory excursions, and along 
with them went the old Rakshasi, after touching 

79 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL iv 

Keshavati with the silver stick. When Champa 
Dal saw that the coast was clear, he came out of 
the temple, walked into Keshavati's room, and 
touched her with the gold stick, on which she 
woke up. They sauntered about in the gardens, 
enjoying the cool breeze of the morning ; they 
bathed in a lucid tank which was in the grounds ; 
they ate and drank, and spent the day in sweet 
converse. They concocted a plan for their deliver- 
ance. They settled that Keshavati should ask the 
old Rakshasi on what the life of a Rakshasa 
depended, and when the secret should be made 
known they would adopt measures accordingly. As 
on the preceding evening, Champa, after touching 
his fair friend with the silver stick, took refuge in 
the temple beneath the heaps of the sacred trefoil. 
At dusk the Rakshasas as usual came home ; and 
the old Rakshasi, rousing her pet, said — 

" Hye^ ffiye, khye ! 
A human being I smell.'^ 

Keshavati answered, " What other human being is 

here excepting myself? Eat me up, if you like." 

" Why should I eat you, my darling ? Let me eat 

up all your enemies." Then she laid down on the 

ground her huge body, which looked like a part 

of the Himalaya mountains. Keshavati, with a 

phial of heated mustard oil, went towards the feet 

of the Rakshasi, and said, " Mother, your feet are 

sore with walking ; let me rub them with oil." So 

saying, she began to rub with oil the Rakshasi's 

feet ; and while she was in the act of doing so, a 

80 



IV THE STORY OF THE RAKSHASAS 

few tear-drops from her eyes fell on the monster's 
leg. The Rakshasi smacked the tear-drops with 
her lips, and finding the taste briny, said, " Why 
are you weeping, darling ? What aileth thee ? " 
To which the princess replied, "Mother, I am 
weeping because you are old, and when you die 
I shall certainly be devoured by one of the Rak- 
shasas." " When I die ! Know, foolish girl, that 
we Rakshasas never die. We are not naturally 
immortal, but our life depends on a secret which 
no human being can unravel. Let me tell you 
v^^hat It is that you may be comforted. You know 
yonder tank ; there is in the middle of it a Sphatika- 
sthamhha,' on the top of which in deep waters are 
two bees. If any human being can dive into 
the waters, and bring up to land the two bees from 
the pillar in one breath, and destroy them so that 
not a drop of their blood falls to the ground, then 
WQ Rakshasas shall certainly die ; but if a single 
drop of blood falls to the ground, then from it will 
start up a thousand Rakshasas. But what human 
being will find out this secret, or, finding it, will 
be able to achieve the feat ? You need not, there- 
fore, darling, be sad ; I am practically immortal " 
Keshavati treasured up the secret in her memory 
and went to sleep. 

Early next morning the Rakshasas as usual 
went away ; Champa came out of his hiding-place 
roused Keshavati, and fell a-talking. The princess 
told him the secret she had learnt from the 
Rakshasi. Champa immediately made prepara- 

1 Sphatika is crystal, and sthambha pillar 

8i 



^ 






FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL iv 

tions for accomplishing the mighty deed. He 
brought to the side of the tank a knife and a 
quantity of ashes. He disrobed himself, put a 
drop or two of mustard oil into each of his ears to 
prevent water from entering in, and dived into the 
waters. In a moment he got to the top of the 
crystal pillar in the middle of the tank, caught 
hold of the two bees he found there, and came up 
in one breath. Taking the knife, he cut up the 
bees over the ashes, a drop or two of the blood fell, 
not on the ground, but on the ashes. When 
Champa caught hold of the bees, a terrible scream 
was heard at a distance. This was the wailing of 
the Rakshasas, who were all running home to 
prevent the bees from being killed ; but before 
they could reach the palace, the bees had perished. 
The moment the bees were killed, all the Rak- 
shasas died, and their carcases fell on the very 
spot on which they were standing. Champa and 
the princess afterwards found that the gateway of 
the palace was blocked up by the huge carcases of 
the Rakshasas — some of them having nearly suc- 
ceeded in getting to the palace. In this manner 
was effected the destruction of the seven hundred 
Rakshasas. 

After the destruction of the seven hundred 
raw-eating monsters, Champa Dal and Keshavati 
got married together by the exchange of garlands 
of flowers. The princess, who had never been out 
of the house, naturally expressed a desire to see 
the outer world. They used every day to take 
long walks both morning and evening, and as a 

82 



IV THE STORY OF THE RAKSHASAS 

large river w^as hard by Keshavati wished to bathe 
in it. The first day they went to bathe, one of 
Keshavati's hairs came off, and as it is the custom 
with women never to throw away a hair unaccom- 
panied with something else, she tied the hair to 
a shell which was floating on the water ; after 
which they returned home. In the meantime the 
shell with the hair tied to it floated down the 
stream, and in course of time reached that ghat^ 
at which Sahasra Dal and his companions were 
in the habit of performing their ablutions. The 
shell passed by when Sahasra Dal and his friends 
were bathing ; and he, seeing it at some distance, 
said to them, "Whoever succeeds in catching 
hold of yonder shell shall be rewarded with a 
hundred rupees." They all swam towards it, and 
Sahasra Dal, being the fleetest swimmer, got it. 
On examining it he found a hair tied to it. But 
such hair ! He had never seen so long a hair. It 
was exactly seven cubits long. *' The owner of 
this hair must be a remarkable woman, and I must 
see her " — such was the resolution of Sahasra Dal. 
He went home from the river in a pensive mood, 
and instead of proceeding to the zenana for break- 
fast, remained in the outer part of the palace. 
The queen-mother, on hearing that Sahasra Dal 
was looking mxclancholy and had not come to 
breakfast, went to him and asked the reason. He 
showed her the hair, and said he must see the 
woman w^hose head it had adorned. The queen- 

1 Eathing-place, either in a tank or on the bank of a river, generally 
furnished with flights of steps. 

83 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL iv 

mother said, " Very well, you shall have that lady 
in the palace as soon as possible. I promise you 
to bring her here." The queen-mother told her 
favourite maid-servant, w^hom she knew^ to be full 
of resources — the same who was a Rakshasi in 
disguise — that she must, as soon as possible, bring 
to the palace that lady who was the owner of 
the hair seven cubits long. The maid-servant said 
she would be quite able to fetch her. By her 
directions a boat was built of Hajoi wood, the 
oars of which were of Mon Paban wood. The 
boat was launched on the stream, and she went on 
board of it with some baskets of wicker-work of 
curious workmanship ; she also took with her 
some sweetmeats into which some poison had 
been mixed. She snapped her fingers thrice, and 
uttered the following charm : — 

''Boat ofHajol! 
Oars of Mon Paban ! 
Take me to the Ghat^ 
In which Keshavati bathes T 

No sooner had the words been uttered than the 
boat flew like lightning over the waters. It went 
on and on, leaving behind many a town and city. 
At last it stopped at a bathing- place, which the 
Rakshasi maid-servant concluded was the bathing 
ghat of Keshavati. She landed with the sweet- 
meats in her hand. She went to the gate of the 
palace, and cried aloud, " O Keshavati ! Kesha- 
vati ! I am your aunt, your mother's sister. I am 

come to see you, my darling, after so many years. 

84 



IV THE STORY OF THE RAKSHASAS 

Are you in, Keshavati ? " The princess, on hear- 
ing these words, came out of her room, and 
making no doubt that she was her aunt, em- 
braced and kissed her. They both wept rivers 
of joy — at least the Rakshasi maid-servant did, 
and Keshavati followed suit through sympathy. 
Champa Dal also thought that she was the aunt of 
his newly married wife. They all ate and drank 
and took rest in the middle of the day. Champa 
Dal, as was his habit, went to sleep after breakfast. 
Towards afternoon, the supposed aunt said to 
Keshavati, " Let us both go to the river and wash 
ourselves." Keshavati replied, " How can we go 
now ? my husband is sleeping." " Never mind," 
said the aunt, " let him sleep on ; let me put these 
sweetmeats, that I have brought, near his bedside, 
that he may eat them when he gets up." They 
then went to the river-side close to the spot where 
the boat was. Keshavati, when she saw from 
some distance the baskets of wicker-work in the 
boat, said, " Aunt, what beautiful things are those ! 
I wish I could get some of them." " Come, my 
child, come and look at them ; and you can have 
as many as you like." Keshavati at first refused to 
go into the boat, but on being pressed by her aunt, 
she went. The moment they two were on board, 
the aunt snapped her fingers thrice and said : — 

'' Boat of Hajol ! 
Oars of Mon Paban ! 
Take me to the Ghat^ 
In which Sahasra Dal bathe s.^^ 

85 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL iv 

As soon as these magical words were uttered the 
boat moved and flew like an arrow over the 
waters. Keshavati was frightened and began to 
cry, but the boat went on and on, leaving behind 
many towns and cities, and in a trice reached the 
ghat where Sahasra Dal was in the habit of 
bathing. Keshavati was taken to the palace ; 
Sahasra Dal admired her beauty and the length of 
her hair ; and the ladies of the palace tried their 
best to comfort her. But she set up a loud cry, and 
wanted to be taken back to her husband. At last 
when she saw that she was a captive, she told the 
ladies of the palace that she had taken a vow that 
she would not see the face of any strange man for 
six months. She was then lodged apart from the 
rest in a small house, the window of which over- 
looked the road ; there she spent the livelong day 
and also the livelong night — for she had very little 
sleep — in sighing and weeping. 

In the meantime when Champa Dal awoke 
from sleep, he was distracted with grief at not 
finding his wife. He now thought that the 
woman, who pretended to be his wife's aunt, was 
a cheat and an impostor, and that she must have 
carried away Keshavati. He did not eat the 
sweetmeats, suspecting they might be poisoned. 
He threw one of them to a crow which, the 
moment it ate it, dropped down dead. He was 
now the more confirmed in his unfavourable 
opinion of the pretended aunt. Maddened with 
grief, he rushed out of the house, and determined 

to go whithersoever his eyes might lead him. 

86 



IV THE STORY OF THE RAKSHASAS 

Like a madman always blubbering " O Keshavati ! 
O Keshavati ! 'he travelled on foot day after day, 
not knowing whither he went. Six months were 

InTJ.ll' ^^"i^"™^ travelling when, at the 
end of that period, he reached the capital of 
Sahasra Da He was passing by the palace-ga^e 
when the sighs and wailings of a woman sitt nf 
the window of a house, on the road-side, attracted 
his attention One moment's look, and they 
ecognised each other. They continued to hold 
ecret communications. Champa Dal heard every- 
thing including the story of her vow, the period 
ot which was to terminate the following day It 

learnerBrlh °" "' '"'",™^"' °' ' ^°-' f- -»- 
learned Brahman to make public recitations of 

events connected with the vow and the person 

who makes it. It was settled that Champ^a Da" 

should take upon himself the functions of the 

reciter. Accordingly, next morning, when it was 

proclaimed by beat of drum that the king wanTed 

a learned Brahman who could recite the story of 

£l to"r." 't' ^""^'"''"' °f ^" -°-. Champa 
Dal touched the drum and said that he would 

make the recitation. Next morning a gorgeous 
assenibly was held in the courtyard !f thVp'alc 
under a huge canopy of silk. The old king 
Sahasra Dal all the courtiers and the learned 
Brahmans of the country, were present there 
Keshavati was also there behind a screen that she 
might not be exposed to the rude gaze of he 
people. Champa Dal, the reciter, sitting on a dl£^ 
began the story of Keshavati, as we have related 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL iv 

it, from the beginning, commencing with the words 
— " There was a poor and half-witted Brahman, 
etc." As he was going on with the story, the 
reciter every now and then asked Keshavati behind 
the screen whether the story was correct ; to 
which question she as often replied, " Quite 
correct ; go on. Brahman." During the recitation 
of the story the Rakshasi maid-servant grew pale, 
as she perceived that her real character was 
discovered ; and Sahasra Dal was astonished at the 
knowledge of the reciter regarding the history of 
his own life. The moment the story was finished, 
Sahasra Dal jumped up from his seat, and 
embracing the reciter, said, " You can be none 
other than my brother Champa Dal." Then the 
prince, inflamed with rage, ordered the maid- 
servant into liis presence. A large hole, as deep 
as the height of a man, was dug in the ground ; 
the maid- servant was put into it in a standing 
posture ; prickly thorn was heaped around her up 
to the crown of her head : in this wise was the 
maid-servant buried alive. After this Sahasra Dal 
and his princess, and Champa Dal and Keshavati, 
lived happily together many years. 

Thus my story endeth. 

The Natty a-t horn wither eth^ etc. 



88 



THE STORY OF SWET-BASANTA 

There was a rich merchant who had an only 
son whom he loved passionately. He gave to his 
son whatever he wanted. His son wanted a 
beautiful house in the midst of a large garden. 
The house was built for him, and the grounds 
were laid out into a fine garden. One day as the 
merchant's son was walking in his garden, he put 
his hand into the nest of a small bird called 
toontooni^ and found in it an ^^%^ which he took 
and put in an almirah which was dug into the 
wall of his house. He closed the door of the 
almirah, and thought no more of the ^%%. 

Though the merchant's son had a house of his 
own, he had no separate establishment ; at any 
rate he kept no cook, for his mother used to send 
him regularly his breakfast and dinner every day. 
The Qg^ which he deposited in the wall-almirah 
one day burst, and out of it came a beautiful infant, 
a girl. But the merchant's son knew nothing 
about it. He had forgotten everything about the 
^%%^ and the door of the wall-almirah had been 
kept closed, though not locked, ever since the day 

89 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL v 

the egg was put there. The child grew up 
within the wall-almirah without the knowledge of 
the merchant's son or of any one else. When the 
child could walk, it had the curiosity one day to 
open the door ; and seeing some food on the floor 
(the breakfast of the merchant's son sent by his 
mother), it came out, and ate a little of it, and 
returned to its cell in the wall-almirah. As the 
mother of the merchant's son sent him always 
more than he could himself eat, he perceived no 
diminution in the quantity. The girl of the wall- 
almirah used every day to come out and eat a part 
of the food, and after eating used to return to her 
place in the almirah. But as the girl got older 
and older, she began to eat more and more ; hence 
the merchant's son began to perceive a diminution 
in the quantity of his food. Not dreaming of the 
existence of the wall-almirah girl, he wondered 
that his mother should send him such a small 
quantity of food. He sent word to his mother, 
complaining of the insufficiency of his meals, and 
of the slovenly manner in which the food was 
served up in the dish ; for the girl of the wall- 
almirah used to finger the rice, curry, and other 
articles of food, and as she always went in a hurry 
back into the almirah that she might not be 
perceived by any one, she had no time to put the 
rice and the other things into proper order after 
she had eaten part of them. The mother was 
astonished at her son's complaint, for she gave 
always a much larger quantity than she knew her 

son could consume, and the food was served up on 

90 



The Girl of the Wall-Almirah. 



V THE STORY OF SWET-BASANTA 

a silver plate neatly by her own hand. But as her 
son repeated the same complaint day after day, she 
began ' to suspect foul play. She told her son to 
watch and see whether any one ate part of it 
unperceived. Accordingly, one day when the 
servant brought the breakfast and laid it in a clean 
place on the floor, the merchant's son, instead of 
going to bathe as it had hitherto been his custom, 
hid himself in a secret place and began to watch. 
In a few minutes he saw the door of the wall- 
almirah open ; a beautiful damsel of sweet six- 
teen stepped out of it, sat on the carpet spread 
before the breakfast, and began to eat. The mer- 
chant's son came out of his hiding-place, and the 
damsel could not escape. " Who are you, beauti- 
ful creature ? You do not seem to be earth-born. 
Are you one of the daughters of the gods ? " asked 
the merchant's son. The girl replied, " I do not 
know who I am. This I know, that one day I 
found myself in yonder almirah, and have been 
ever since living in it." The merchant's son 
thought it strange. He now remembered that 
sixteen years before he had put in the almirah an 
egg he had found in the nest of a toontooni bird. 
The uncommon beauty of the wall-almirah girl 
made a deep impression on the mind of the 
merchant's son, and he resolved in his mind to 
marry her. The girl no more went into the 
almirah, but lived in one of the rooms of the 
spacious house of the merchant's son. 

The next day the merchant's son sent word to 
his mother to the effect that he would like to get 

91 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL v 

married. His mother reproached herself for not 
having long before thought of her son's marriage, 
and sent a message to her son to the effect that 
she and his father would the next day send 
ghataks ^ to different countries to seek for a suitable 
bride. The merchant's son sent word that he had 
secured for himself a most lovable young lady, and 
that if his parents had no objections he would 
produce her before them. Accordingly the young 
lady of the wall-almirah was taken to the mer- 
chant's house ; and the merchant and his wife 
were so struck with the matchless beauty, grace, 
and loveliness of the stranger, that, without asking 
any questions as to her birth, the nuptials were 
celebrated. 

In course of time the merchant's son had two 
sons ; the elder he named Swet and the younger 
Basanta. The old merchant died and so did his 
wife. Swet and Basanta grew up fine lads, and 
the elder was in due time married. Some time 
after Swet's marriage his mother, the wall-almirah 
lady, also died, and the widower lost no time in 
marrying a young and beautiful wife. As Swet's 
wife was older than his stepmother, she became 
the mistress of the house. The stepmother, like 
all stepmothers, hated Swet and Basanta with a 
perfect hatred ; and the two ladies were naturally 
often at loggerheads with each other. 

It so happened one day that a fisherman brought 
to the merchant (we shall no longer call him the 
merchant's son, as his father had died) a fish of 

1 Professional match-makers. 
92 



V THE STORY OF SWET-BASANTA 

singular beauty. It was unlike any other fish that 
had been seen. The fish had marvellous qualities 
ascribed to it by the fisherman. If any one eats 
it, said he, when he laughs maniks ^ will drop from 
his mouth, and when he weeps pearls will drop 
from his eyes. The merchant, hearing of the 
wonderful properties of the fish, bought it at one 
thousand rupees, and put it into the hands of Swet's 
wife, who was the mistress of the house, strictly 
enjoining on her to cook it well and to ^\n^ it to 
him alone to eat. The mistress, or house-mother, 
who had overheard the conversation between her 
father-in-law and the fisherman, secretly resolved 
in her mind to give the cooked fish to her husband 
and to his brother to eat, and to give to her father- 
in-law instead a frog daintily cooked. When she 
had finished cooking both the fish and the frog, 
she heard the noise of a squabble between her 
stepmother-in-law and her husband's brother. It 
appears that Basanta, who was but a lad yet, was 
passionately fond of pigeons, which he tamed. 
One of these pigeons had flown into the room of 
his stepmother, who had secreted it in her clothes. 
Basanta rushed into the room, and loudly demanded 
the pigeon. His stepmother denied any knowledge 
of the pigeon, on which the elder brother, Swet, 
forcibly took out the bird from her clothes and 
gave it to his brother. The stepmother cursed and 
swore, and added, " Wait, when the head of the 
house comes home I will make him shed the blood 

1 Manik, or rather manikya, is a fabulous precious stone of incredible value. 
It is found on the head of some species of snakes, and is equal in value to the 
wealth of seven kings. 

93 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL v 

of you both before I give him water to drink." 
Swet's wife called her husband and said to him, 
" My dearest lord, that woman is a most wicked 
woman, and has boundless influence over my father- 
in-law. She will make him do what she has 
threatened. Our life is in imminent danger. Let 
us first eat a little, and let us all three run away 
from this place." Swet forthwith called Basanta 
to him, and told him what he had heard from his 
wife. They resolved to run away before night- 
fall. The woman placed before her husband and 
his brother-in-law the fish of wonderful properties, 
and they ate of it heartily. The woman packed 
up all her jewels in a box. As there was only one 
horse, and it was of uncommon fleetness, the three 
sat upon it ; Swet held the reins, the woman sat in 
the middle with the jewel-box in her lap, and 
Basanta brought up the rear. 

The horse galloped with the utmost swiftness. 
They passed through many a plain and many a 
noted town, till after midnight they found them- 
selves in a forest not far from the bank of a river. 
Here the most untoward event took place. Swet's 
wife began to feel the pains of child-birth. They 
dismounted, and in an hour or two Swet's wife gave 
birth to a son. What were the two brothers to 
do in this forest ? A fire must be kindled to 
give heat both to the mother and the new-born 
baby. But where was the fire to be got ? There 
were no human habitations visible. Still fire 
must be procured — and it was the month of 
December — or else both the mother and the baby 

94 





w^fi.wiCK GoBi-c;. 



"On a sudden an elephant gorgeously caparisoned shot 
across his path." 



V THE STORY OF SVVET-BASANTA 

would certainly perish. Swet told Basanta to sit 
beside his wife, while he set out in the darkness 
of the night in search of fire. 

Swet walked many a mile in darkness. Still he 
saw no human habitations. At last the genial light 
of Sukra^ somewhat illumined his path, and he 
saw at a distance what seemed a large city. He 
was congratulating himself on his journey's end and 
on his being able to obtain fire for the benefit of 
his poor wife lying cold in the fiDrest with the 
new-born babe, when on a sudden an elephant, 
gorgeously caparisoned, shot across his path, and 
gently taking him up by his trunk, placed him on 
the rich howdah" on its back. It then walked 
rapidly towards the city. Swet was quite taken 
aback. He did not understand the meaning of the 
elephant's action, and wondered what was in store 
for him. A crown was in store lov him. In that 
kingdom, the chief city of which he was approach- 
ing, every morning a king was elected, for the king 
of the previous day was always found dead in the 
morning in the room of the queen. What caused 
the death of the king no one knew ; neither did 
the queen herself (for every successive king took 
her to wife) know the cause. And the elephant 
who took hold of Swet was the king -maker. 
Early in the morning it went about, sometimes to 
distant places, and whosoever was brought on its 
back was acknowledged king by the people. The 
elephant majestically marched through the crowded 

1 Venus, the Morning Star. 
2 The seat on the back of an elephant. 

95 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL v 

streets of the city, amid the acclamations of the 
people, the meaning of which Swet did not under- 
stand, entered the palace, and placed him on the 
throne. He was proclaimed king amid the rejoic- 
ings of some and the lamentations of others. In 
the course of the day he heard of the strange 
fatality which overtook every night the elected 
king of those realms, but being possessed of great 
discretion and courage, he took every precaution to 
avert the dreadful catastrophe. Yet he hardly 
knew what expedients to adopt, as he was un- 
acquainted with the nature of the danger. He 
resolved, however, upon two things, and these 
were, to go armed into the queen's bedchamber, 
and to sit up awake the whole night. The queen 
was young and of exquisite beauty, and so guileless 
and benevolent was the expression of her face that 
it was impossible from looking at her to suppose 
that she could use any foul means of taking away 
the life of her nightly consort. In the queen's 
chamber Swet spent a very agreeable evening ; as 
the night advanced the queen fell asleep, but Swet 
kept awake, and was on the alert, looking at every 
creek and corner of the room, and expecting every 
minute to be murdered. In the dead of night he 
perceived something like a thread coming out of 
the left nostril of the queen. The thread was so 
thin that it was almost invisible. As he watched 
it he found it several yards long, and yet it was 
coming out. When the whole of it had come out, 
it began to grow thick, and in a few minutes it 

assumed the form of a huge serpent. In a moment 

96 



V THE STORY OF SWET-BASANTA 

Swet cut off the head of the serpent, the body of 
which wriggled violently. He sat quiet in the 
room, expecting other adventures. But nothing 
else happened. The queen slept longer than usual 
as she had been relieved of the huge snake which 
had made her stomach its den. Early next 
morning the ministers came expecting as usual to 
hear of the king's death ; but when the ladies of 
the bedchamber knocked at the door of the queen 
they were astonished to see Swet come out. It was 
then known to all the people how that every night 
a terrible snake issued from the queen's nostrils, how 
it devoured the king every night, and how it had 
at last been killed by the fortunate Swet. The 
whole country rejoiced in the prospect of a 
permanent king. It is a strange thing, never- 
theless it is true, that Swet did not remember 
his poor wife with the new-born babe lying in the 
forest, nor his brother attending on her. With the 
possession of the throne he seemed to forget the 
whole of his past history. 

Basanta, to whom his brother had entrusted 
his wife and child, sat watching for many a weary 
hour, expecting every moment to see Swet return 
with fire. The whole night passed away without 
his return. At sunrise he went to the bank of the 
river which was close by, and anxiously looked 
about for his brother, but in vain. Distressed 
beyond measure, he sat on the river side and wept. 
A boat was passing by in which a merchant was 
returning to his country. As the boat was not far 
from the shore the merchant saw Basanta weeping ; 

97 H 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL v 

and what struck the attention of the merchant was 
the heap of what looked like pearls near the 
weeping man. At the request of the merchant 
the boatman took his vessel towards the bank ; 
the merchant went to the weeping man, and found 
that the heap was a heap of real pearls of the 
finest lustre : and what astonished him most of all 
was that the heap was increasing every second, for 
the tear-drops that were falling from his eyes fell 
to the ground not as tears but as pearls. The 
merchant stowed away the heap of pearls into his 
boat, and with the help of his servants caught 
hold of Basanta himself, put him on board the 
vessel, and tied him to a post. Basanta, of course, 
resisted ; but what could he do against so many ? 
Thinking of his brother, his brother's wife and 
baby, and his own captivity, Basanta wept more 
bitterly than before, which mightily pleased the 
merchant, as the more tears his captive shed the 
richer he himself became. When the merchant 
reached his native town he confined Basanta in a 
room, and at stated hours every day scourged him 
in order to make him shed tears, every one of 
which was converted into a bright pearl. The 
merchant one day said to his servants, " As the 
fellow is making me rich by his weeping, let us 
see what he gives me by laughing." Accordingly 
he began to tickle his captive, on which Basanta 
laughed, and as he laughed a great many maniks 
dropped from his mouth. After this poor Basanta 
was alternately whipped and tickled all the day 
and far into the night ; and the merchant, in 



V THE STORY OF SWET-BASANTA 

consequence, became the wealthiest man in 
the land. Leaving Basanta subjected to the 
alternate processes of castigation and titillation, 
let us attend to the fortunes of the poor wife 
of Swet, alone in the forest, with a child just 
born. 

Swet's wife, apparently deserted by her 
husband and her brother-in-law, was overwhelmed 
with grief. A woman, but a few hours since 
delivered of a child — and her first child, alone, and 
in a forest, far from the habitations of men, — her 
case was indeed pitiable. She wept rivers of tears. 
Excessive grief, however, brought her relief. 
She fell asleep with the new-born baby in her 
arms. It so happened that at that hour the 
Kotwal (prefect of the police) of the country was 
passing that way. He had been very unfortunate 
with regard to his offspring ; every child his wife 
presented him with died shortly after birth, and 
he was now going to bury the last infant on the 
banks of the river. As he was going, he saw in 
the forest a woman sleeping with a baby in her 
arms. It was a lively and beautiful boy. The 
Kotwal coveted the lovely infant. He quietly 
took it up, put in its place his own dead child, and 
returning home, told his wife that the child had 
not really died and had revived. Swet's wife, 
unconscious of the deceit practised upon her by 
the Kotwal, on waking found her child dead. 
The distress of her mind may be imagined. The 
whole world became dark to her. She was 
distracted with grief, and in her distraction she 

99 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL v 

formed the resolution of committing suicide. 
The river was not far from the spot, and she 
determined to drown herself in it. She took in 
her hand the bundle of jewels and proceeded to 
the river-side. An old Brahman was at no great 
distance, performing his morning ablutions. He 
noticed the woman going into the water, and 
naturally thought that she was going to bathe ; 
but when he saw her going far into deep waters, 
some suspicion arose in his mind. Discontinuing 
his devotions, he bawled out and ordered the 
woman to come to him. Swet's wife seeing that 
it was an old man that was calling her, retraced 
her steps and came to him. On being asked what 
she was about to do, she said that she was going 
to make an end of herself, and that as she had 
some jewels with her she would be obliged if he 
would accept them as a present. At the request 
of the old Brahman she related to him her 
whole story. The upshot was, that she was 
prevented from drowning herself, and that she 
was received into the Brahman's family, where 
she was treated by the Brahman's wife as her own 
daughter. 

Years passed on. The reputed son of the 
Kotwal grew up a vigorous, robust lad. As the 
house of the old Brahman was not far from the 
Kotwal's, the Kotwal's son used accidentally to 
meet the handsome strange woman who passed for 
the Brahman's daughter. The lad liked the 
woman, and wanted to marry her. He spoke to 
his father about the woman, and the father spoke 

100 



V THE STORY OF SWET-BASANTA 

to the Brahman. The Brahman's rage knew no 
bounds. What ! the infidel Kotwal's son aspirin? 
to the hand of a Brahman's daughter ! A dwarf 
may as well aspire to catch hold of the moon ! 
But the Kotwal's son determined to have her by 
force. With this wicked object he one day 
scaled the wall that encompassed the Brahman's 
house, and got upon the thatched roof of the 
Brahman's cow-house. While he was recon- 
noitenng from that lofty position, he heard the 
tollowmg conversation between two calves in the 
cow-house : — 

First Calf. Men accuse us of brutish ignorance 
and immorality ; but in my opinion men are fifty 
times worse. 

Second Calf. What makes you say so, brother ? 
Have you witnessed to-day any instance of human 
depravity ? 

First Calf Who can be a greater monster of 
crime than the same lad who is at this moment 
standmg on the thatched roof of this hut over our 
head ? 

Second Calf Why, I thought it was only the 
son of our Kotwal ; and I never heard that he was 
exceptionally vicious. 

First Calf You never heard, but now you 
hear from me. This wicked lad is now wishine 
to get married to his own mother ! 

The First Calf then related to the inquisitive 
Second Calf in full the story of Swet and Basanta • 
how they and Swet's wife fled from the vengeance 
of their stepmother; how Swet's wife was 



lOI 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL v 

delivered of a child in the forest by the river-side ; 
how Swet v^as made king by the elephant, and 
how he succeeded in killing the serpent which 
issued out of the queen's nostrils ; how Basanta 
was carried away by the merchant, confined in a 
dungeon, and alternately flogged and tickled for 
pearls and majiiks ; how the Kotwal exchanged his 
dead child for the living one of Swet ; how Swet's 
wife was prevented from drowning herself in the 
river by the Brahman ; how she was received into 
the Brahman's family and treated as his daughter ; 
how the Kotwal's son grew up a hardy, lusty 
youth, and fell in love with her ; and how at that 
very moment he was intent on accomplishing his 
brutal object. All this story the Kotwal's son 
heard from the thatched roof of the cow-house, 
and was struck with horror. He forthwith got 
down from the thatch, and went home and told 
his father that he must have an interview with 
the king. Notwithstanding his reputed father's 
protestations to the contrary, he had an interview 
with the king, to whom he repeated the whole 
story as he had overheard it from the thatch of the 
cow-house. The king now remembered his poor 
wife's case. She was brought from the house of 
the Brahman, whom he richly rewarded, and put 
her in her proper position as the queen of the 
kingdom ; the reputed son of the Kotwal was 
acknowledged as his own son, and proclaimed the 
heir-apparent to the throne ; Basanta was brought 
out of the dungeon, and the wicked merchant who 
had maltreated him was buried alive in the earth 

102 



V THE STORY OF SWET-BASANTA 

surrounded with thorns. After this, Swet, his 
wife and son, and Basanta, lived together happily 
for many years. 

Now my story endeth. 

The Natiya-thorn wkhereth, etc. 



[03 



VI 

THE EVIL EYE OF SANI 

Once upon a time Sani, or Saturn, the god of bad 
luck, and Lakshmi, the goddess of good luck, fell 
out with each other in heaven. Sani said he was 
higher in rank than Lakshmi, and Lakshmi said 
she was higher in rank than Sani. As all the gods 
and goddesses of heaven were equally ranged on 
either side, the contending deities agreed to refer 
the matter to some human being who had a name 
for wisdom and justice. Now, there lived at that 
time upon earth a man of the name of Sribatsa,^ 
who was as wise and just as he was rich. Him, 
therefore, both the god and the goddess chose as 
the settler of their dispute. One day, accordingly, 
Sribatsa was told that Sani and Lakshmi were 
wishing to pay him a visit to get their dispute 
settled. Sribatsa was in a fix. If he said Sani was 
higher in rank than Lakshmi, she would be angry 
with him and forsake him. If he said Lakshmi 
was higher in rank than Sani, Sani would cast his 
evil eye upon him. Hence he made up his mind 

1 Sri is another name of Lakshmi, and batsa means child ; so that Sribatsa 
is literally the " child of fortune." 

104 



VI THE EVIL EYE OF SANI 

not to say anything directly, but to leave the god 
and the goddess to gather his opinion from his 
action. He got two stools made, the one of gold 
and the other of silver, and placed them beside 
him. When Sani and Lakshmi came to Sribatsa, 
he told Sani to sit upon the silver stool, and 
Lakshmi upon the gold stool. Sani became mad 
with rage, and said in an angry tone to Sribatsa, 
"Well, as you consider me lower in rank than 
Lakshmi, I will cast my eye on you for three years ; 
and I should like to see how you fare at the end of 
that period." The god then went away in high 
dudgeon. Lakshmi, before going away, said to 
Sribatsa, "My child, do not fear. I'll befriend 
you." The god and the goddess then went away. 
Sribatsa said to his wife, whose name was 
Chintamani, " Dearest, as the evil eye of Sani will 
be upon me at once, I had better go away from 
the house ; for if I remain in the house with you, 
evil will befall you and me ; but if I go away, it 
will overtake me only." Chintamani said, "That 
cannot be ; wherever you go, I will go, your lot 
shall be my lot." The husband tried hard to 
persuade his wife to remain at home ; but it was 
of no use. She would go with her husband. 
Sribatsa accordingly told his wife to make an 
opening in their mattress, and to stow away in it 
all the money and jewels they had. On the eve 
of leaving their house, Sribatsa invoked Lakshmi, 
who forthwith appeared. He then said to her, 
" Mother Lakshmi ! as the evil eye of Sani is 
upon us, we are going away into exile ; but do thou 

105 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL vi 

befriend us, and take care of our house and 

property." The goddess of good luck answered, 

" Do not fear ; I'll befriend you ; all will be right 

at last." They then set out on their journey. 

Sribatsa rolled up the mattress and put it on his 

head. They had not gone many miles when they 

saw a river before them. It was not fordable ; 

but there was a canoe there with a man sitting in 

it. The travellers requested the ferryman to take 

them across. The ferryman said, " I can take 

only one at a time ; but you are three — yourself, 

your wife, and the mattress." Sribatsa proposed 

that first his wife and the mattress should be taken 

across, and then he ; but the ferryman would not 

hear of it. " Only one at a time," repeated he ; 

*' first let me take across the mattress." When 

the canoe with the mattress was in the middle of 

the stream, a fierce gale arose, and carried away 

the mattress, the canoe, and the ferryman, no one 

knows whither. And it was strange the stream 

also disappeared, for the place, where they saw a 

few minutes since the rush of waters, had now 

become firm ground. Sribatsa then knew that 

this was nothing but the evil eye of Sani. 

Sribatsa and his wife, without a pice in their 

pocket, went to a village which was hard by. It 

was dwelt in for the most part by wood-cutters, 

who used to go at sunrise to the forest to cut 

wood, which they sold in a town not far from the 

village. Sribatsa proposed to the wood-cutters 

that he should go along with them to cut wood. 

They agreed. So he began to fell trees as well as 

io6 



"They then set out on their journey." 







"Wai>?,v«/»ck^ Goaue, 



VI THE EVIL EYE OF SANI 

the best of them ; but there was this diiFerence 
between Sribatsa and the other wood-cutters, that 
whereas the latter cut any and every sort of wood, 
the former cut only precious wood like sandal- 
wood. The wood-cutters used to bring to market 
large loads of common wood, and Sribatsa only 
a few pieces of sandal-wood, for which he got a 
great deal more money than the others. As this 
was going on day after day, the wood-cutters 
through envy plotted together, and drove away 
from the village Sribatsa and his wife. 

The next place they went to was a village of 
weavers, or rather cotton-spinners. Here Chinta- 
mani, the wife of Sribatsa, made herself useful by 
spinning cotton. And as she was an intelligent 
and skilful woman, she spun finer thread than the 
other women ; and she got more money. This 
roused the envy of the native women of the 
village. But this was not all. Sribatsa, in order 
to gain the good grace of the weavers, asked them 
to a feast, the dishes of which were all cooked by 
his wife. As Chintamani excelled in cooking, 
the barbarous weavers of the village were quite 
charmed by the delicacies set before them. When 
the men went to their homes, they reproached 
their wives for not being able to cook so well as 
the wife of Sribatsa, and called them good-for- 
nothing women. This thing made the women of 
the village hate Chintamani the more. One day 
Chintamani went to the river-side to bathe along 
with the other women of the village. A boat 
had been lying on the bank stranded on the sand 

107 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL vi 

for many days ; they had tried to move it, but in 

vain. It so happened that as Chintamani by 

accident touched the boat, it moved off to the 

river. The boatmen, astonished at the event, 

thought that the woman had uncommon power, 

and might be useful on similar occasions in future. 

They therefore caught hold of her, put her in the 

boat, and rowed off. The women of the village, who 

were present, did not offer any resistance as they hated 

Chintamani. When Sribatsa heard how his wife 

had been carried away by boatmen, he became 

mad with grief. He left the village, went to the 

river-side, and resolved to follow the course of the 

stream till he should meet the boat where his wife 

was a prisoner. He travelled on and on, along 

the side of the river, till it became dark. As there 

were no huts to be seen, he climbed into a tree for 

the night. Next morning as he got down from 

the tree he saw at the foot of it a cow called a 

Kapila-cow, which never calves, but which gives 

milk at all hours of the day whenever it is milked. 

Sribatsa milked the cow, and drank its milk to his 

heart's content. He was astonished to find that 

the cow-dung which lay on the ground was of a 

bright yellow colour ; indeed, he found it was 

pure gold. While it was in a soft state he wrote 

his own name upon it, and when in the course 

of the day it became hardened, it looked like a 

brick of gold — and so it was. As the tree grew 

on the river-side, and as the Kapila-cow came 

morning and evening to supply him with milk, 

Sribatsa resolved to stay there till he should meet 

io8 



VI THE EVIL EYE OF SANI 

the boat. In the meantime the gold-bricks were 
increasing in number every day, for the cov^ both 
morning and evening deposited there the precious 
article. He put the gold-bricks, upon all of 
which his name was engraved, one upon another 
in rows, so that from a distance they looked like a 
hillock of gold. 

Leaving Sribatsa to arrange his gold -bricks 
under the tree on the river-side we must follow 
the fortunes of his wife. Chintamani was a woman 
of great beauty ; and thinking that her beauty 
might be her ruin, she, when seized by the boat- 
men, offered to Lakshmi the following prayer 

" O Mother Lakshmi ! have pity upon me. Thou 
hast made me beautiful, but now my beauty will 
undoubtedly prove my ruin by the loss of honour 
and chastity. I therefore beseech thee, gracious 
Mother, to make me ugly, and to cover my body 
with some loathsome disease, that the boatmen 
may not touch me." Lakshmi heard Chintamani's 
prayer ; and in the twinkling of an eye, while she 
was in the arms of the boatmen, her naturally 
beautiful form was turned into a vile carcase. The 
boatmen, on putting her down in the boat, found 
her body covered with loathsome sores which were 
giving out a disgusting stench. They therefore 
threw her into the hold of the boat amongst the 
cargo, where they used morning and evening to 
send her a little boiled rice and some water. In 
that hold Chintamani had a miserable life of it ; 
but she greatly preferred that misery to the loss 
of chastity. The boatmen went to some port, sold 

109 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL vi 

the cargo, and were returning to their country 
when the sight of what seemed a hillock of gold, 
not far from the river-side, attracted their attention. 
Sribatsa, whose eyes were ever directed towards 
the river, was delighted when he saw a boat turn 
towards the bank, as he fondly imagined his wife 
might be in it. The boatmen went to the hillock 
of gold, when Sribatsa said that the gold was his. 
They put all the gold-bricks on board their vessel, 
took Sribatsa prisoner, and put him into the hold 
not far from the woman covered with sores. They 
of course immediately recognised each other, in 
spite of the change Chintamani had undergone, 
but thought it prudent not to speak to each other. 
They communicated there ideas, therefore, by signs 
and gestures. Now, the boatmen were fond of 
playing at dice, and as Sribatsa appeared to them 
from his looks to be a respectable man, they 
always asked him to join in the game. As he 
was an expert player, he almost always won the 
game, on which the boatmen, envying his superior 
skill, threw him overboard. Chintamani had the 
presence of mind, at that moment, to throw into 
the water a pillow which she had for resting her 
head upon. Sribatsa took hold of the pillow, by 
means of which he floated down the stream till he 
was carried at nightfall to what seemed a garden 
on the water's edge. There he stuck among the 
trees, where he remained the whole night, wet 
and shivering. Now, the garden belonged to an 
old widow who was in former years the chief flower- 
supplier to the king of that country. Through 

no 



VI THE EVIL EYE OF SANI 

some cause or other a blight seemed to have come 

over her garden, as almost all the trees and plants 

ceased flowering ; she had therefore given up her 

place as the flower-supplier of the royal household. 

On the morning following the night on which 

Sribatsa had stuck among the trees, however, the 

old woman on getting up from her bed could 

scarcely believe her eyes when she saw the whole 

garden ablaze with flowers. There was not a 

single tree or plant which was not begemmed with 

flowers. Not understanding the cause of such a 

miraculous sight, she took a walk through the 

garden, and found on the river's brink, stuck among 

the trees, a man shivering and almost dying with 

cold. She brought him to her cottage, lighted a 

fire to give him warmth, and showed him every 

attention, as she ascribed the wonderful flowering 

of her trees to his presence. After making him 

as comfortable as she could, she ran to the king's 

palace, and told his chief servants that she was 

again in a position to supply the palace with 

flowers ; so she was restored to her former office 

as the flower -woman of the royal household. 

Sribatsa, who stopped a few days with the woman, 

requested her to recommend him to one of the 

king's ministers for a berth. He was accordingly 

sent for to the palace, and as he was at once found 

to be a man of intelligence, the king's minister 

asked him what post he would like to have. 

Agreeably to his wish he was appointed collector 

of tolls on the river. While discharging his duties 

as river toll-gatherer, in the course of a few days 

III 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL vi 

he saw the very boat in which his wife was a 
prisoner. He detained the boat, and charged the 
boatmen with the theft of gold-bricks which he 
claimed as his own. At the mention of gold- 
bricks the king himself came to the river-side, and 
was astonished beyond measure to see bricks made 
of gold, every one of which had the inscription — 
Sribatsa. At the same time Sribatsa rescued from 
the boatmen his wife, who, the moment she came 
out of the vessel, became as lovely as before. The 
king heard the story of Sribatsa's misfortunes from 
his lips, entertained him in a princely style for 
many days, and at last sent him and his wife to 
their own country with presents of horses and 
elephants. The evil eye of Sani was now turned 
away from Sribatsa, and he again became what he 
formerly was, the Child of Fortune. 

Thus my story endeth^ 

The Natiya-thorn withereth^ etc. 



112 



VII 

THE BOY WHOM SEVEN MOTHERS 

SUCKLED 

Once on a time there reigned a king who had 
seven queens. He was very sad, for the seven 
queens were all barren. A holy mendicant, however, 
one day told the king that in a certain forest there 
grew a tree, on a branch of which hung seven man- 
goes ; if the king himself plucked those mangoes and 
gave one to each of the queens they would all become 
mothers. So the king went to the forest, plucked 
the seven mangoes that grew upon one branch, and 
gave a mango to each of the queens to eat. In a 
short time the king's heart was filled with joy, as he 
heard that the seven queens were all with child. 

One day the king was out hunting, when he 
saw a young lady of peerless beauty cross his path. 
He fell in love with her, brought her to his palace, 
and married her. This lady was, however, not a 
human being, but a Rakshasi ; but the king of 
course did not know it. The king became dotingly 
fond of her ; he did whatever she told him. She 
said one day to the king, " You say that you love 

113 I 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL vii 

me more than any one else. Let me see whether 
you really love me so. If you love me, make your 
seven other queens blind, and let them be killed." 
The king became very sad at the request of his 
best-beloved queen, the more so as the seven queens 
were all with child. But there was nothing for it 
but to comply with the Rakshasi-queen's request. 
The eyes of the seven queens were plucked out of 
their sockets, and the queens themselves were 
delivered up to the chief minister to be destroyed. 
But the chief minister was a merciful man. 
Instead of killing the seven queens he hid them in 
a cave which was on the side of a hill. In course 
of time the eldest of the seven queens gave birth to 
a child. "What shall I do with the child," said 
she, " now that we are blind and are dying for want 
of food r Let me kill the child, and let us all eat 
of its flesh." So saying she killed the infant, 
and gave to each of her sister-queens a part 
of the child to eat. The six ate their portion, 
but the seventh or youngest queen did not eat her 
share, but laid it beside her. In a few days the 
second queen also was delivered of a child, and she 
did with it as her eldest sister had done with hers. 
So did the third, the fourth, the fifth, and the sixth 
queen. At last the seventh queen gave birth to a 
son ; but she, instead of following the example of 
her sister-queens, resolved to nurse the child. The 
other queens demanded their portions of the newly- 
born babe. She gave each of them the portion she 
had got of the six children which had been killed, 

and which she had not eaten but laid aside. The 

114 



VII BOY SUCKLED BY SEVEN MOTHERS 

other queens at once perceived that their portions 
were dry, and could not therefore be the parts of 
the child just born. The seventh queen told them 
that she had made up her mind not to kill the 
child but to nurse it. The others were glad to 
hear this, and they all said that they would help 
her in nursing the child. So the child was suckled 
by seven mothers, and it became after some years 
the hardiest and strongest boy that ever lived. 

In the meantime the Rakshasi-wife of the king 
was doing infinite mischief to the royal household 
and to the capital. What she ate at the royal table 
did not fill her capacious stomach. She therefore, 
in the darkness of night, gradually ate up all 
the members of the royal family, all the king's 
servants and attendants, all his horses, elephants, 
and cattle ; till none remained in the palace except 
she herself and her royal consort. After that she 
used to go out in the evenings into the city and eat 
up a stray human being here and there. The king 
was left unattended by servants ; there was no 
person left to cook for him, for no one would take 
his service. At last the boy who had been suckled 
by seven mothers, and who had now grown up to 
a stalwart youth, volunteered his services. He 
attended on the king, and took every care to 
prevent the queen from swallowing him up, for he 
went away home long before nightfall ; and the 
Rakshasi-queen never seized her victims except at 
night. Hence the queen determined in some other 
way to get rid of the boy. As the boy always 
boasted that he was equal to any work, however 

115 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL vii 

hard, the queen told him that she was suffering 

from some disease which could be cured only by 

eating a certain species of melon, which was twelve 

cubits long, but the stone of which was thirteen 

cubits long, and that that fruit could be had 

only from her mother, who lived on the other 

side of the ocean. She gave him a letter of 

introduction to her mother, in which she requested 

her to devour the boy the moment he put the 

letter into her hands. The boy, suspecting foul 

play, tore up the letter and proceeded on his 

journey. The dauntless youth passed through 

many lands, and at last stood on the shore of the 

ocean, on the other side of which was the country 

of the Rakshasis. He then bawled as loud as he 

could, and said, " Granny ! granny ! come and save 

your daughter ; she is dangerously ill." An old 

Rakshasi on the other side of the ocean heard the 

words, crossed the ocean, came to the boy, and on 

hearing the message took the boy on her back and 

re-crossed the ocean. So the boy was in the 

country of the Rakshasis. The twelve-cubit melon 

with its thirteen-cubit stone was given to the boy 

at once, and he was told to perform the journey 

back. But the boy pleaded fatigue, and begged 

to be allowed to rest one day. To this the old 

Rakshasi consented. Observing a stout club and a 

rope hanging in the Rakshasi's room, the boy 

inquired what they were there for. She replied, 

" Child, by that club and rope I cross the ocean. If 

any one takes the club and the rope in his hands, and 

addresses them in the following magical words — 

ii6 




'. i 



r '\ 



V i 



, \ 



'j^'-'-wV^- \ 



"A monstrous bird comes out apparently from the palace." 



VII BOY SUCKLED BY SEVEN MOTHERS 

" O stout club I O strong rote ! 
Take me at once to the other side,'' 

then immediately the club and rope will take him 
to the other side of the ocean." Observing a bird 
in a cage hanging in one corner of the room, the 
boy inquired what it was. The old Rakshasi 
replied, " It contains a secret, child, which must 
not be disclosed to mortals, and yet how can I hide 
it from my own grandchild ? That bird, child, 
contains the life of your mother. If the bird is 
killed, your mother will at once die." Armed 
with these secrets, the boy went to bed that night. 
Next morning the old Rakshasi, together with all 
the other Rakshasis, went to distant countries for 
forage. The boy took down the cage from the 
ceiling, as well as the club and rope. Having 
well secured the bird, he addressed the club and 
rope thus — 

" O stout club ! O strong rope ! 
Take me at once to the other side!'' 

In the twinkling of an eye the boy was put on 
this side the ocean. He then retraced his steps, 
came to the queen, and gave her, to her astonish- 
ment, the twelve-cubit melon with its thirteen- 
cubit stone ; but the cage with the bird in it he 
kept carefully concealed. 

In the course of time the people of the city 
came to the king and said, "A monstrous bird 
comes out apparently from the palace every evening, 

and seizes the passengers in the streets and swallows 

117 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL vii 

them up. This has been going on for so long a 
time that the city has become almost desolate." 
The king could not make out what this monstrous 
bird was. The king's servant, the boy, replied 
that he knew the monstrous bird, and that he 
would kill it provided the queen stood beside the 
king. By royal command the queen was made to 
stand beside the king. The boy then took the 
bird from the cage which he had brought from 
the other side of the ocean, on seeing which she 
fell into a fainting fit. Turning to the king the 
boy said, " Sire, you will soon perceive who the 
monstrous bird is that devours your subjects every 
evening. As I tear off each limb of this bird, the 
corresponding limb of the man-devourer will fall 
off." The boy then tore off one leg of the bird 
in his hand ; immediately, to the astonishment of 
the whole assembly, for the citizens were all 
present, one of the legs of the queen fell off. And 
when the boy squeezed the throat of the bird, the 
queen gave up the ghost. The boy then related 
his own history and that of his mother and his 
stepmothers. The seven queens, whose eyesight 
was miraculously restored, were brought back to 
the palace ; and the boy that was suckled by seven 
mothers was recognised by the king as his rightful 
heir. So they lived together happily. 

Thus my story etideth. 

The Natty a-thorn withereth^ &c\ 



ii8 



VIII 
THE STORY OF PRINCE SOBUR 

Once upon a time there lived a certain merchant 
who had seven daughters. One day the merchant 
put to his daughters the question : " By whose 
fortune do you get your living ? " The eldest 
daughter answered — " Papa, I get my living by 
your fortune." The same answer was given by 
the second daughter, the third, the fourth, the 
fifth, and the sixth ; but his youngest daughter 
said — "I get my living by my own fortune." 
The merchant got very angry with the youngest 
daughter, and said to her — " As you are so un- 
grateful as to say that you get your living by your 
own fortune, let me see how you fare alone. This 
very day you shall leave my house without a pice 
in your pocket." He forthwith called his palki- 
bearers, and ordered them to take away the girl 
and leave her in the midst of a forest. The girl 
begged hard to be allowed to take with her her 
work-box containing her needles and threads. She 
was allowed to do so. She then got into the palki, 
which the bearers lifted on their shoulders. The 

bearers had not gone many hundred yards to the 

119 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL viii 

tune of " Hoon ! hoon ! hoon ! hoon ! hoon ! hoon ! " 
when an old woman bawled out to them and bid 
them stop. On coming up to the palki, she said, 
" Where are you taking away my daughter ? " for 
she was the nurse of the merchant's youngest child. 
The bearers replied, "The merchant has ordered us 
to take her away and leave her in the midst of a 
forest ; and we are going to do his bidding." " I 
must go with her," said the old woman. " How 
will you be able to keep pace with us, as we must 
needs run ? " said the bearers. " Anyhow I must 
go where my daughter goes," rejoined the old 
woman. The upshot was that, at the entreaty of 
the merchant's youngest daughter, the old woman 
was put inside the palki along with her. In the 
afternoon the palki-bearers reached a dense forest. 
They went far into it ; and towards sunset they 
put down the girl and the old woman at the foot 
of a large tree, and retraced their steps homewards. 
The case of the merchant's youngest daughter 
was truly pitiable. She was scarcely fourteen 
years old ; she had been bred in the lap of luxury ; 
and she was now here at sundown in the heart of 
what seemed an interminable forest, with not a 
penny in her pocket, and with no other protection 
than what could be given her by an old, decrepit, 
imbecile woman. The very trees of the forest 
looked upon her with pity. The gigantic tree, at 
whose foot she was mingling her tears with those 
of the old woman, said to her (for trees could 
speak in those days) — " Unhappy girl ! I much 
pity you. In a short time the wild beasts of the 

120 



VIII THE STORY OF PRINCE SOBUR 

forest will come out of their lairs and roam about 
for their prey ; and they are sure to devour you 
and your companion. But I can help you ; I w^ill 
make an opening for you in my trunk. When 
you see the opening go into it ; I v^ill then close 
it up ; and you will remain safe inside ; nor can 
the wild beasts touch you." In a moment the 
trunk of the tree was split into two. The 
merchant's daughter and the old woman went 
inside the hollow, on which the tree resumed its 
natural shape. When the shades of night darkened 
the forest the wild beasts came out of their lairs. 
The fierce tiger was there ; the wild bear was 
there ; the hard- skinned rhinoceros was there ; 
the bushy bear was there ; the musty elephant 
was there ; and the horned buffalo was there. 
They all growled round about the tree, for they 
got the scent of human blood. The merchant's 
daughter and the old woman heard from within 
the tree the growl of the beasts. The beasts came 
dashing against the tree ; they broke its branches ; 
they pierced its trunk with their horns ; they 
scratched its bark with their claws : but in vain. 
The merchant's daughter and her old nurse were 
safe within. Towards dawn the wild beasts went 
away. After sunrise the good tree said to her 
two inmates, " Unhappy women, the wild beasts 
have gone into their lairs after greatly tormenting 
me. The sun is up ; you can now come out." 
So saying the tree split itself into two, and the 
merchant's daughter and the old woman came out. 
They saw the extent of the mischief done by the 

121 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL viii 

wild beasts to the tree. Many of its branches had 
been broken down ; in many places the trunk had 
been pierced ; and in other places the bark had 
been stripped off. The merchant's daughter said 
to the tree, " Good mother, you are truly good to 
give us shelter at such a fearful cost. You must 
be in great pain from the torture to which the 
wild beasts subjected you last night." So saying 
she went to the tank which was near the tree, and 
bringing thence a quantity of mud, she besmeared 
the trunk with it, especially those parts which had 
been pierced and scratched. After she had done 
this, the tree said, " Thank you, my good girl, I 
am now greatly relieved of my pain. I am, 
however, concerned not so much about myself as 
about you both. You must be hungry, not having 
eaten the whole of yesterday. And what can I 
give you ? I have no fruit of my own to give 
you. Give to the old woman whatever money 
you have, and let her go into the city hard by and 
buy some food." They said they had no money. 
On searching, however, in the work-box she 
found five cowries? The tree then told the old 
woman to go with the cowries to the city and buy 
some khai."^ The old woman went to the city, 
which was not far, and said to one confectioner, 
" Please give me five cowries' worth of khaiy 
The confectioner laughed at her and said, " Be ofl^ 
you old hag, do you think khai can be had for five 
cowries ? " She tried another shop, and the shop- 

^ Shells used as money, one hundred and sixty of which could have been 
got a few years ago for one pice. 
2 Fried paddy. 

122 




-!«•♦ 



^ ™"- 



'ti^'^'-?2'^V^ -^" *■'*- ^"^-3^ -*^- 



















WAKWi '< Go Sue: 



Hundreds of peacocks of gorgeous plumes came to 
the embankments to eat the khai" 



VIII THE STORY OF PRINCE SOBUR 

keeper, thinking the woman to be in great distress, 
compassionately gave her a large quantity of khai 
for the five cowries. 

When the old v^oman returned with the khai^ 
the tree said to the merchant's daughter, " Each 
of you eat a little of the khai^ lay by more than 
half, and strew the rest on the embankments of the 
tank all round." They did as they were bidden, 
though they did not understand the reason why 
they were told to scatter the khai on the sides of 
the tank. They spent the day in bewailing their 
fate, and at night they were housed inside the 
trunk of the tree as on the previous night. The 
wild beasts came as before, further mutilated the 
tree, and tortured it as in the preceding night. 
But during the night a scene was being enacted 
on the embankments of the tank of which the 
two women saw the outcome only on the follow- 
ing morning. Hundreds of peacocks of gorgeous 
plumes came to the embankments to eat the khai 
which had been strewed on them ; and as they 
strove with each other for the tempting food 
many of their plumes fell off their bodies. Early 
in the morning the tree told the two women to 
gather the plumes together, out of which the 
merchant's daughter made a beautiful fan. This 
fan was taken into the city to the palace, where 
the son of the king admired it greatly and paid for 
it a large sum of money. As each morning a 
quantity of plumes was collected, every day one 
fan was made and sold. So that in a short time 

the two women got rich. The tree then advised 

123 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL viii 

them to employ men in building a house for them 
to live in. Accordingly bricks were burnt, trees 
were cut down for beams and rafters, bricks were 
reduced to powder, lime was manufactured, and in 
a few months a stately, palace-like house was built 
for the merchant's daughter and her old nurse. 
It was thought advisable to lay out the adjoining 
grounds as a garden, and to dig a tank for supply- 
ing them with water. 

In the meantime the merchant himself with 
his wife and six daughters had been frowned upon 
by the goddess of wealth. By a sudden stroke of 
misfortune he lost all his money, his house and 
property were sold, and he, his wife, and six 
daughters, were turned adrift penniless into the 
world. It so happened that they lived in a village 
not far from the place where the two strange 
women had built a palace and were digging a tank. 
As the once rich merchant was now supporting 
his family by the pittance which he obtained 
every day for his manual labour, he bethought 
himself of employing himself as a day labourer in 
digging the tank of the strange lady on the skirts 
of the forest. His wife said she would also go to 
dig the tank with him. So one day while the 
strange lady was amusing herself from the window 
of her palace with looking at the labourers 
digging her tank, to her utter surprise she saw her 
father and mother coming towards the palace, 
apparently to engage themselves as day labourers. 
Tears ran down her cheeks as she looked at them, 

for they were clothed in rags. She immediately 

124 



V 



III THE STORY OF PRINCE SOBUR 



sent servants to bring them inside the house. 
The poor man and woman were frightened beyond 
measure. They saw that the tank was all ready ; 
and as it was customary in those days to offer a 
human sacrifice when the digging was over, they 
thought that they were called inside in order to be 
sacrificed. Their fears increased when they were 
told to throw away their rags and to put on fine 
clothes which were given to them. The strange 
lady of the palace, however, soon dispelled their 
fears ; for she told them that she was their 
daughter, fell on their necks and wept. The rich 
daughter related her adventures, and the father 
felt she was right when she said that she lived 
upon her own fortune and not on that of her 
father. She gave her father a large fortune, 
which enabled him to go to the city in which 
he formerly lived, and to set himself up again as 
a merchant. 

The merchant now bethought himself of 
going in his ship to distant countries for purposes 
of trade. All was ready. He got on board, ready 
to start, but, strange to say, the ship would not 
move. The merchant was at a loss what to make 
of this. At last the idea occurred to him that he 
had asked each of his six daughters, who were 
living with him, what thing she wished he should 
bring for her ; but he had not asked that question 
of his seventh daughter who had made him rich. 
He therefore immediately despatched a messenger to 
his youngest daughter, asking her what she wished 
her father to bring for her on his return from his 

125 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL viii 

mercantile travels. When the messenger arrived 

she was engaged in her devotions, and hearing that 

a messenger had arrived from her father she said 

to him " Sobur," meaning " wait." The messenger 

understood that she wanted her father to bring for 

her something called Sobur. He returned to the 

merchant and told him that she wanted him to 

bring for her Sobur. The ship now moved of 

itself, and the merchant started on his travels. 

He visited many ports, and by selling his goods 

obtained immense profit. The things his six 

daughters wanted him to bring for them he easily 

got, but Sobur^ the thing which he understood his 

youngest daughter wished to have, he could get 

nowhere. He asked at every port whether Sobur 

could be had there, but the merchants all told him 

that they had never heard of such an article ot 

commerce. At the last port he went through the 

streets bawling out — " Wanted Sobur ! wanted 

Sobur ! " The cry attracted the notice of the son 

of the king of that country whose name was Sobur. 

The prince, hearing from the merchant that his 

daughter wanted Sobur, said that he had the article 

in question, and bringing out a small box of wood 

containing a magical fan with a looking-glass in it, 

said — " This is Sobur which your daughter wishes 

to have." The merchant having obtained the 

long-wished-for Sobur weighed anchor, and sailed 

for his native land. On his arrival he sent to his 

youngest daughter the said wonderful box. The 

daughter, thinking it to be a common wooden box, 

laid it aside. Some days after when she was at 

126 



VIII THE STORY OF PRINCE SOBUR 

leisure she bethought herself of opening the box 
which her father had sent her. When she opened 
it she saw in it a beautiful fan, and in it a looking- 
glass. As she shook the fan, in a moment the 
Prince Sobur stood before her, and said — "You 
called me, here I am. What's your wish ? " 
The merchant's daughter, astonished at the sudden 
appearance of a prince of such exquisite beauty, 
asked who he was, and how he had made his 
appearance there. The prince told her of the 
circumstances under which he gave the box to her 
father, and informed her of the secret that when- 
ever the fan would be shaken he would make his 
appearance. The prince lived for a day or two 
in the house of the merchant's daughter, who 
entertained him hospitably. The upshot was, 
that they fell in love with each other, and vowed 
to each other to be husband and wife. The prince 
returned to his royal father and told him that he 
had selected a wife for himself. The day for the 
wedding was fixed. The merchant and his six 
daughters were invited. The nuptial knot was 
tied. But there was death in the marriage-bed. 
The six daughters of the merchant, envying the 
happy lot of their youngest sister, had determined 
to put an end to the life of her newly-wedded 
husband. ^ They broke several bottles, reduced the 
broken pieces into fine powder, and scattered it 
profusely on the bed. The prince, suspecting no 
danger, laid himself down in the bed ; but he had 
scarcely been there two minutes when he felt 
acute pain through his whole system, for the fine 

127 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL viii 

bottle-powder had gone through every pore of his 
body. As the prince became restless through pain, 
and was shrieking aloud, his attendants hastily 
took him away to his own country. 

The king and queen, the parents of Prince 
Sobur, consulted all the physicians and surgeons 
of the kingdom ; but in vain. The young prince 
was day and night screaming with pain, and no 
one could ascertain the disease, far less give him 
relief. The grief of the merchant's daughter may 
be imagined. The marriage knot had been scarcely 
tied when her husband was attacked, as she thought, 
by a terrible disease and carried away many 
hundreds of miles off. Though she had never 
seen her husband's country she determined to go 
there and nurse him. She put on the garb of a 
Sannyasi, and with a dagger in her hand set out 
on her journey. Of tender years, and unaccustomed 
to make long journeys on foot, she soon got weary 
and sat under a tree to rest. On the top of the 
tree was the nest of the divine bird Bihangama 
and his mate Bihangami. They were not in their 
nest at the time, but two of their young ones were 
in it. Suddenly the young ones on the top of 
the tree gave a scream which roused the half- 
drowsy merchant's daughter whom we shall now 
call the young Sannyasi. He saw near him a huge 
serpent raising its hood and about to climb into 
the tree. In a moment he cut the serpent into 
two, on which the young birds left off screaming. 
Shortly after the Bihangama and Bihangami came 

sailing through the air ; and the latter said to the 

128 



VIII THE STORY OF PRINCE SOBUR 

former — " I suppose our offspring as usual have 
been devoured by our great enemy the serpent. 
Ah me ! I do not hear the cries of my young 
ones." On nearing the nest, however, they v^ere 
agreeably surprised to find their offspring alive. 
The young ones told their dams how the young 
Sannyasi under the tree had destroyed the serpent. 
And sure enough the snake was lying there cut 
into two. 

The Bihangami then said to her mate — "The 
young Sannyasi has saved our offspring from death, 
I wish we could do him some service in return." 
The Bihangama replied, " We shall presently do 
her service, for the person under the tree is not 
a man but a woman. She got married only last 
night to Prince Sobur, who, a few hours after, 
when jumping into his bed, had every pore of his 
body pierced with fine particles of ground bottles 
which had been spread over his bed by his envious 
sisters-in-law. He is still suffering pain in his 
native land, and, indeed, is at the point of death. 
And his heroic bride taking the garb of a Sannyasi 
is going to nurse him." " But," asked the Bihan- 
gami, " is there no cure for the prince ? " " Yes, 
there is," replied the Bihangama : " if our dung 
which is lying on the ground round about, and 
which is hardened, be reduced to powder, and 
applied by means of a brush to the body of the 
prince after bathing him seven times with seven 
jars of water and seven jars of milk. Prince Sobur 
will undoubtedly get well." " But," asked the 

Bihangami, " how can the poor daughter of the 

129 K 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL viii 

merchant walk such a distance ? It must take her 

many days, by which time the poor prince will 

have died." " I can," replied the Bihangama, 

" take the young lady on my back, and put her in 

the capital of Prince Sobur, and bring her back, 

provided she does not take any presents there." 

The merchant's daughter, in the garb of a Sannyasi, 

heard this conversation between the two birds, 

and begged the Bihangama to take her on his 

back. To this the bird readily consented. Before 

mounting on her aerial car she gathered a quantity 

of birds' dung and reduced it to fine powder. 

Armed with this potent drug she got up on the back 

of the kind bird, and sailing through the air with 

the rapidity of lightning, soon reached the capital of 

Prince Sobur. The young Sannyasi went up to the 

gate of the palace, and sent word to the king that 

he was acquainted with potent drugs and would 

cure the prince in a few hours. The king, who 

had tried all the best doctors in the kingdom 

without success, looked upon the Sannyasi as a 

mere pretender, but on the advice of his councillors 

agreed to give him a trial. The Sannyasi ordered 

seven jars of water and seven jars of milk to be 

brought to him. He poured the contents of all 

the jars on the body of the prince. He then 

applied, by means of a feather, the dung-powder 

he had already prepared to every pore of the 

prince's body. Thereafter seven jars of water and 

seven jars of milk were again six times poured upon 

him. When the prince's body was wiped, he felt 

perfectly well. The king ordered that the richest 

130 



VIII THE STORY OF PRINCE SOBUR 

treasures he had should be presented to the wonder- 
ful doctor ; but the Sannyasi refused to take any. 
He only wanted a ring from the prince's finger 
to preserve as a memorial. The ring was readily 
given him. The merchant's daughter hastened 
to the sea-shore where the Bihangama was awaiting 
her. In a moment they reached the tree of the 
divine birds. Hence the young bride walked to her 
house on the skirts of the forest. The following 
day she shook the magical fan, and forthwith 
Prince Sobur appeared before her. When the 
lady showed him the ring, he learnt with infinite 
surprise that his own wife was the doctor that 
cured him. The prince took away his bride to 
his palace in his far-off kingdom, forgave his 
sisters-in-law, lived happily for scores of years, 
and was blessed with children, grandchildren, and 
great-grandchildren. 



Thus my story endeth. 

The Natiya-thom withereth^ 



etc. 



131 



IX 
THE ORIGIN OF OPIUM ^ 

Once on a time there lived on the banks of the 
holy Ganga a Rishi,^ who spent his days and 
nights in the performance of religious rites and in 
meditation upon God. From sunrise to sunset he 
sat on the river bank engaged in devotion, and at 
night he took shelter in a hut of palm-leaves which 
his own hand had raised in a bush hard by. There 
were no men and women for miles round. In the 
hut, however, there was a mouse, which used to 
live upon the leavings of the Rishi's supper. As it 
was not in the nature of the sage to hurt any living 
thing, our mouse never ran away from him, but, 
on the contrary, went to him, touched his feet, and 
played with him. The Rishi, partly in kindness 
to the little brute, and partly to have some one by 
to talk to at times, gave the mouse the power of 
speech. One night the mouse, standing on its hind- 
legs and joining together its fore-legs reverently, 

* This story is not my own. It was recited to me by a story-teller of the 
other sex who rejoices in the nom de flume "An Inmate of the Calcutta 
Lunatic Asylum." 

2 A holy sage. 

132 



IX THE ORIGIN OF OPIUM 

said to the Rishi, " Holy sage, you have been so 
kind as to give me the power to speak like men. 
If it will not displease your reverence, I have one 
more boon to ask." " What is it ? " said the Rishi. 
" What is it, little mousie ? Say what you want." 
The mouse answered — " When your reverence goes 
in the day to the river-side for devotion, a cat 
comes to the hut to catch me. And had it not 
been for fear of your reverence, the cat would have 
eaten me up long ago ; and I fear it will eat me 
some day. My prayer is that I may be changed 
into a cat that I may prove a match for my foe." 
The Rishi became propitious to the mouse, and 
threw some holy water on its body, and it was at 
once changed into a cat. 

Some nights after, the Rishi asked his pet, 
" Well, little puss, how do you like your present 
life .? " " Not much, your reverence," answered 
the cat. " Why not ? " demanded the sage. " Are 
you not strong enough to hold your own against all 
the cats in the world ? " " Yes," rejoined the cat. 
" Your reverence has made me a strong cat, able to 
cope with all the cats in the world. But I do not 
now fear cats ; I have got a new foe. Whenever 
your reverence goes to the river-side, a pack of dogs 
comes to the hut, and sets up such a loud barking 
that I am frightened out of my life. If your 
reverence will not be displeased with me, I beg 
you to change me into a dog." The Rishi said, 
" Be turned into a dog," and the cat forthwith 
became a dog. 

Some days passed, when one night the dog 

133 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL ix 

said thus to the Rishi : " I cannot thank your 
reverence enough for your kindness to me. I was 
but a poor mouse, and you not only gave me speech 
but turned me into a cat ; and again you vv^ere kind 
enough to change me into a dog. As a dog, how- 
ever, I suffer a great deal of trouble, I do not get 
enough food : my only food is the leavings of your 
supper, but that is not sufficient to fill the maw of 
such a large beast as you have made me. O how 
I envy those apes who jump about from tree to 
tree, and eat all sorts of delicious fruits ! If your 
reverence will not get angry with me, I pray that I be 
changed into an ape." The kind-hearted sage readily 
granted his pet's wish, and the dog became an ape. 
Our ape was at first wild with joy. He leaped 
from one tree to another, and sucked every luscious 
fruit he could find. But his joy was short-lived. 
Summer came on with its drought. As a monkey 
he found it hard to drink water out of a river or of 
a pool ; and he saw the wild boars splashing in the 
water all the day long. He envied their lot, and 
exclaimed, " O how happy those boars are ! All 
day their bodies are cooled and refreshed by water. 
I wish I were a boar." Accordingly at night he 
recounted to the Rishi the troubles of the life of 
an ape and the pleasures of that of a boar, and 
begged of him to change him into a boar. The 
sage, whose kindness knew no bounds, complied 
with his pet's request, and turned him into a wild 
boar. For two whole days our boar kept his body 
soaking wet, and on the third day, as he was 
splashing about in his favourite element, whom 

134 



IX THE ORIGIN OF OPIUM 

should he see but the king of the country riding 
on a richly caparisoned elephant. The king was 
out hunting, and it was only by a lucky chance that 
our boar escaped being bagged. He dwelt in his 
own mind on the dangers attending the life of a 
wild boar, and envied the lot of the stately elephant 
who was so fortunate as to carry about the king 
of the country on his back. He longed to be an 
elephant, and at night besought the Rishi to make 
him one. 

Our elephant was roaming about in the wilder- 
ness, when he saw the king out hunting. The 
elephant went towards the king's suite with the 
view of being caught. The king, seeing the 
elephant at a distance, admired it on account of its 
beauty, and gave orders that it should be caught 
and tamed. Our elephant was easily caught, and 
taken into the royal stables, and was soon tamed. 
It so chanced that the queen expressed a wish to 
bathe in the waters of the holy Ganga. The king, 
who wished to accompany his royal consort, ordered 
that the newly-caught elephant should be brought 
to him. The king and queen mounted on his back. 
One would suppose that the elephant had now got 
his wishes, as the king had mounted on his back. 
But no. There was a fly in the ointment. The 
elephant, who looked upon himself as a lordly 
beast, could not brook the idea that a woman, 
though a queen, should ride on his back. He 
thought himself degraded. He jumped up so 
violently that both the king and queen fell to the 
ground. The king carefully picked up the queen, 

135 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL ix 

took her in his arms, asked her whether she had 
been much hurt, wiped off the dust from her 
clothes with his handkerchief, and tenderly kissed 
her a hundred times. Our elephant, after witness- 
ing the king's caresses, scampered off to the woods 
as fast as his legs could carry him. As he ran he 
thought within himself thus : " After all, I see that 
a queen is the happiest of all creatures. Of what 
infinite regard is she the object ! The king lifted 
her up, took her in his arms, made many tender 
inquiries, wiped off the dust from her clothes with 
his own royal hands, and kissed her a hundred 
times ! O the happiness of being a queen ! I 
must tell the Rhisi to make me a queen ! " So 
saying the elephant, after traversing the woods, 
went at sunset to the Rishi's hut, and fell prostrate 
on the ground at the feet of the holy sage. The 
Rishi said, " Well, what's the news ? Why have 
you left the king's stud ? " " What shall I say to 
your reverence ? You have been very kind to me ; 
you have granted every wish of mine. I have one 
more boon to ask, and it will be the last. By 
becoming an elephant I have got only my bulk 
increased, but not my happiness. I see that of all 
creatures a queen is the happiest in the world. 
Do, holy father, make me a queen." "Silly 
child," answered the Rishi, "how can I make you a 
queen .? Where can I get a kingdom for you, and 
a royal husband to boot .? All I can do is to 
change you into an exquisitely beautiful girl, 
possessed of charms to captivate the heart of a 

prince, if ever the gods grant you an interview 

136 



IX THE ORIGIN OF OPIUM 

with some great prince ! " Our elephant agreed 
to the change ; and in a moment the sagacious 
beast was transformed into a beautiful young 
lady, to whom the holy sage gave the name of 
Postomani, or the poppy-seed lady. 

Postomani lived in the Rishi's hut, and spent 
her time in tending the flowers and watering the 
plants. One day, as she was sitting at the door of 
the hut during the Rishi's absence, she saw a 
man dressed in a very rich garb come towards the 
cottage. She stood up and asked the stranger 
who he was, and what he had come there for. 
The stranger answered that he had come a-hunting 
in those parts, that he had been chasing in vain a 
deer, that he felt thirsty, and that he came to the 
hut of the hermit for refreshment. 

Postomani. Stranger, look upon this cot as 
your own house. I'll do everything I can to 
make you comfortable ; I am only sorry we are too 
poor suitably to entertain a man of your rank, for 
if I mistake not you are the king of this country. 

The king smiled. Postomani then brought 
out a water-pot, and made as if she would wash 
the feet of her royal guest with her own hands, 
when the king said, " Holy maid, do not touch 
my feet, for I am only a Kshatriya, and you are 
the daughter of a holy sage." 

Postomani. Noble sir, I am not the daughter 
of the Rishi, neither am I a Brahmani girl ; so 
there can be no harm in my touching your feet. 
Besides, you are my guest, and I am bound to 
wash your feet. 

137 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL ix 

King. Forgive my impertinence. What caste 
do you belong to ? 

Postomani. I have heard from the sage that 
my parents v^ere Kshatriyas. 

King. May I ask you whether your father 
was a king, for your uncommon beauty and your 
stately demeanour show that you are a born 
princess. 

Postomani, without answering the question, 
went inside the hut, brought out a tray of the 
most delicious fruits, and set it before the king. 
The king, however, would not touch the fruits 
till the maid had answered his questions. When 
pressed hard Postomani gave the following answer : 
" The holy sage says that my father was a king. 
Having been overcome in battle, he, along with 
my mother, fled into the woods. My poor father 
was eaten up by a tiger, and my mother at that 
time was brought to bed of me, and she closed her 
eyes as I opened mine. Strange to say, there was 
a bee-hive on the tree at the foot of which I lay ; 
drops of honey fell into my mouth and kept alive 
the spark of life till the kind Rishi found me and 
brought me into his hut. This is the simple story 
of the wretched girl who now stands before the 
king." 

Ki?2g. Call not yourself wretched. You are 
the loveliest and most beautiful of women. You 
would adorn the palace of the mightiest sovereign. 

The upshot was, that the king made love to 
the girl and they were joined in marriage by the 
Rishi. Postomani was treated as the favourite 

138 



" ' You would adorn the palace of the mightiest sovereign.' 



TV 



THE ORIGIN OF OPIUM 



queen, and the former queen was in disgrace. 
Postomani's happiness, however, was short-lived. 
One day as she was standing by a well, she became 
giddy, fell into the water, and died. The Rishi 
then appeared before the king and said : " O king, 
grieve not over the past. What is fixed by fate 
must come to pass. The queen, who has just 
been drowned, was not of royal blood. She was 
born a mouse ; I then changed her successivelv, 
according to her own wish, into a cat, a dog, an 
ape, a boar, an elephant, and a beautiful girl. Now 
that she is gone, do you again take into favour 
your former queen. As for my reputed daughter, 
through the favour of the gods I'll make her 
name immortal. Let her body remain in the 
well ; fill the well up with earth. Out of her 
flesh and bones will grow a tree which shall be 
called after her Posto, that is, the Poppy tree. 
From this tree will be obtained a drug called 
opium, which will be celebrated as a powerful 
medicine through all ages, and which will always 
be either swallowed or smoked as a wonderful nar- 
cotic to the end of time. The opium swallower 
or smoker will have one quality of each of the 
animals to which Postomani was transformed. 
He will be mischievous like a mouse, fond of milk 
like a cat, quarrelsome like a dog, filthy like an 
ape, savage like a boar, and high-tempered like a 
queen." 

Thus my story encieth. 

The Natty a-ihorn wither eth^ etc, 

139 



X 

STRIKE BUT HEAR 

Once upon a time there reigned a king who had 
three sons. His subjects one day came to him and 
said, " O incarnation of justice ! the kingdom is 
infested with thieves and robbers. Our property 
is not safe. We pray your majesty to catch hold 
of these thieves and punish them." The king 
said to his sons, " O my sons, I am old, but you 
are all in the prime of manhood. How is it that 
my kingdom is full of thieves ? I look to you to 
catch hold of these thieves." The three princes 
then made up their minds to patrol the city every 
night. With this view they set up a station in 
the outskirts of the city, where they kept their 
horses. In the early part of the night the eldest 
prince rode upon his horse and went through the 
whole city, but did not see a single thief. He 
came back to the station. About midnight the 
second prince got upon his horse and rode through 
every part of the city, but he did not see or hear 
of a single thief. He came also back to the 

station. Some hours after midnight the youngest 

140 



1"^=^ 



Bi!B?P! 




,im» t^ - vrTi» 



"He saw a beautiful woman coming out of the palace." 



X STRIKE BUT HEAR 

prince went the rounds, and when he came near 
the gate of the palace where his father lived, he 
saw a beautiful woman coming out of the palace. 
The prince accosted the woman, and asked who 
she was and where she was going at that hour 
of the night. The woman answered, " I am 
Rajlakshmi,^ the guardian deity of this palace. 
The king will be killed this night. I am 
therefore not needed here. I am going away." 
The prince did not know what to make of this 
message. After a moment's reflection he said to 
the goddess, " But suppose the king is not killed 
to-night, then have you any objection to return 
to the palace and stay there ? " " I have no 
objection," replied the goddess. The prince then 
begged the goddess to go in, promising to do his 
best to prevent the king from being killed. Then 
the goddess entered the palace again, and in a 
moment went the prince knew not whither. 

The prince went straight into the bedroom of 
his royal father. There he lay immersed in deep 
sleep. His second and young wife, the stepmother 
of our prince, was sleeping in another bed in the 
room. A light was burning dimly. What was 
his surprise when the prince saw a huge cobra 
going round and round the golden bedstead on 
which his father was sleeping. The prince with 
his sword cut the serpent in two. Not satisfied 
with killing the cobra, he cut it up into a hundred 
pieces, and put them inside the pan dish ^ which 

' The tutelary goddess of a king's household. 

2 A vessel, made generally of brass, for keeping the pan leaf together with 
betel-nut and other spices. 

141 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL x 

was in the room. While the prince was cutting 

up the serpent a drop of blood fell on the breast 

of his stepmother who was sleeping hard by. 

The prince was in great distress. He said to 

himself, " I have saved my father but killed my 

mother." How was the drop of blood to be taken 

out of his mother's breast ? He wrapped round 

his tongue a piece of cloth sevenfold, and with it 

licked up the drop of blood. But while he was 

in the act of doing this, his stepmother woke up, 

and opening her eyes saw that it was her stepson, 

the youngest prince. The young prince rushed 

out of the room. The queen, intending to ruin 

the youngest prince, whom she hated, called out 

to her husband, " My lord, my lord, are you 

awake .? are you awake ? Rouse yourself up. 

Here is a nice piece of business." The king on 

awaking inquired what the matter was. " The 

matter, my lord ? Your worthy son, the youngest 

prince, of whom you speak so highly, was just 

here. I caught him in the act of touching my 

breast. Doubtless he came with a wicked intent. 

And this is your worthy son ! " The king was 

horror-struck. The prince went to the station to 

his brothers, but told them nothing. 

Early in the morning the king called his eldest 

son to him and said, " If a man to whom I intrust 

my honour and my life prove faithless, how 

should he be punished .? " The eldest prince 

replied, " Doubtless such a man's head should be 

cut off; but before you kill, you should see 

whether the man is really faithless." " What 

142 



X STRIKE BUT HEAR 

do you mean ? " inquired the king. " Let your 
majesty be pleased to listen," answered the prince. 
" Once on a time there lived a goldsmith who 
had a grown-up son. And this son had a wife 
who had the rare faculty of understanding the 
language of beasts ; but neither her husband nor 
any one else knew that she had this uncommon 
gift. One night she was lying in bed beside her 
husband in their house, which was close to a river, 
when she heard a jackal howl out, ' There goes a 
carcase floating on the river ; is there any one who 
will take off the diamond ring from the finger of 
the dead man and give me the corpse to eat .? ' 
The woman understood the jackal's language, got up 
from bed and went to the river-side. The husband, 
who was not asleep, followed his wife at some 
distance so as not to be observed by her. The 
woman went into the water, tugged the floating 
corpse towards the shore, and saw the diamond 
ring on the finger. Unable to loosen it with her 
hand, as the fingers of the dead body had swelled, 
she bit it off with her teeth, and put the dead body 
upon land. She then went to her bed, whither 
she had been preceded by her husband. The 
young goldsmith lay beside his wife almost petrified 
with fear, for he concluded after what he saw that 
his wife was not a human being but a Rakshasi. 
He spent the rest of the night in tossing in his bed, 
and early in the morning spoke to his father in the 
following manner : * Father, the woman whom 
thou hast given me to wife is not a real woman but 
a Rakshasi. Last night as I was lying in bed with 

143 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL x 

her, I heard outside the house, towards the river- 
side, a jackal set up a fearful howl. On this she, 
thinking that I was asleep, got up from bed, opened 
the door, and went out to the river-side. Surprised 
to see her go out alone at the dead hour of night, 
I suspected evil and followed her, but so that she 
could not see me. What did she do, do you think .? 
O horror of horrors ! She went into the stream, 
dragged towards the shore the dead body of a man 
which was floating by, and began to eat it ! I saw 
this with mine own eyes. I then returned home 
while she was feasting upon the carcase, and jumped 
into bed. In a few minutes she also returned, 
bolted the door, and lay beside me. O my father, 
how can I live with a Rakshasi .? She will 
certainly kill me and eat me up one night.' The 
old goldsmith was not a little shocked to hear this 
account. Both father and son agreed that the 
woman should be taken into the forest and there 
left to be devoured by wild beasts. Accordingly 
the young goldsmith spoke to his wife thus : 
' My dear love, you had better not cook much 
this morning ; only boil rice and burn a brinjal, 
for I must take you to-day to see your father 
and mother, who are dying to see you.' At 
the mention of her father's house she became 
full of joy, and finished the cooking in no time. 
The husband and wife snatched a hasty breakfast 
and started on their journey. The way lay 
through a dense jungle, in which the gold- 
smith bethought himself of leaving his wife alone 

to be eaten up by wild beasts. But while they 

144 




vyAR.wtrK Goaue. 



Husband, take up all this large quantity of gold 
and these precious stones.' " 



X STRIKE BUT HEAR 

were passing through this jungle the woman heard 
a serpent hiss, the meaning of which hissing, as 
understood by her, was as follows : ' O passer-by, 
how thankful should I be to you if you would catch 
hold of that croaking frog in yonder hole, which 
is full of gold and precious stones, and give me the 
frog to swallow, and you take the gold and precious 
stones.' The woman forthwith made for the frog, 
and began digging the hole with a stick. The 
young goldsmith was now quaking with fear, 
thinking his Rakshasi-wife was about to kill him. 
She called out to him and said, ' Husband, take up 
all this large quantity of gold and these precious 
stones.' The goldsmith, not knowing what to 
make of it, timidly went to the place, and to his 
infinite surprise saw the gold and the precious 
stones. They took up as much as they could. 
On the husband's asking his wife how she came to 
know of the existence of all this riches, she said 
that she understood the language of animals, and 
that the snake coiled up hard by had informed her 
of it. The goldsmith, on finding out what an 
accomplished wife he was blessed with, said to her, 
' My love, it has got very late to-day ; it would be 
impossible to reach your father's house before 
nightfall, and we may be devoured by wild beasts 
in the jungle ; I propose therefore that we both 
return home.' It took them a long time to reach 
home, for they were laden with a large quantity of 
gold and precious stones. On coming near the 
house, the goldsmith said to his wife, * My dear, 
you go by the back door, while I go by the front 

145 L 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL x 

door and see my father in his shop and show him 
all this gold and these precious stones.' So she 
entered the house by the back door, and the 
moment she entered she was met by the old 
goldsmith, who had come that minute into the 
house for some purpose with a hammer in his 
hand. The old goldsmith, when he saw his 
Rakshasi daughter-in-law, concluded in his mind 
that she had killed and swallowed up his son. He 
therefore struck her on the head with the hammer, 
and she immediately died. That moment the son 
came into the house, but it was too late. Hence 
it is that I told your majesty that before you cut 
off a man's head you should inquire whether the 
man is really guilty." 

The king then called his second son to him, 
and said, " If a man to whom I intrust my honour 
and my life prove faithless, how should he be 
punished ? " The second prince replied, " Doubt- 
less such a man's head should be cut off, but before 
you kill you should see whether the man is really 
faithless." " What do you mean .? " inquired the 
king. " Let your majesty be pleased to listen," 
answered the prince. 

" Once on a time there reigned a king who was 

very fond of going out a-hunting. Once while he 

was out hunting his horse took him into a dense 

forest far from his followers. He rode on and on, 

and did not see either villages or towns. He 

became very thirsty, but he could see neither pond, 

lake, nor stream. At last he found something 

dripping from the top of a tree. Concluding it to 

146 



X STRIKE BUT HEAR 

be rain-water which had rested in some cavity of 

the tree, he stood on horseback under the tree and 

caught the dripping contents in a small cup. It 

was, however, no rain-water. A huge cobra, 

which was on the top of the tree, was dashing in 

rage its fangs against the tree ; and its poison was 

coming out and was falling in drops. The king, 

however, thought it was rain-water ; though his 

horse knew better. When the cup was nearly 

filled with the liquid snake-poison, and the king 

was about to drink it off, the horse, to save the life 

of his royal master, so moved about that the cup 

fell from the king's hand and all the liquid spilled 

about. The king became very angry with his 

horse, and with his sword gave a cut to the horse's 

neck, and the horse died immediately. Hence it 

is that I told your majesty that before you cut off a 

man's head you should inquire whether the man 

is really guilty." 

The king then called to him his third and 
youngest son, and said, " If a man to whom I 
intrust my honour and my life prove faithless, how 
should he be punished ? " The youngest prince 
replied, " Doubtless such a man's head should be cut 
off, but before you kill you should see whether the 
man is really faithless." " What do you mean ? " 
inquired the king. '* Let your majesty be pleased 
to listen," answered the prince. 

" Once on a time there reigned a king who had in 
his palace a remarkable bird of the Suka species. 
One day as the Suka went out to the fields for an 
airmg, he saw his dad and dam, who pressed him 

H7 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL x 

to come and spend some days with them in their 
nest in some far-off land. The Suka answered he 
would be very happy to come, but he could not go 
without the king's leave ; he added that he would 
speak to the king that very day, and would be 
ready to go the following morning if his dad and 
dam would come to that very spot. The Suka 
spoke to the king, and the king gave leave with 
reluctance as he was very fond of the bird. So 
the next morning the Suka met his dad and dam 
at the place appointed, and went with them to his 
paternal nest on the top of some high tree in a far- 
off land. The three birds lived happily together 
for a fortnight, at the end of which period the 
Suka said to his dad and dam, ' My beloved parents, 
the king granted me leave only for a fortnight, 
and to-day the fortnight is over : to-morrow I 
must start for the city of the king.' His dad and 
dam readily agreed to the reasonable proposal, and 
told him to take a present to the king. After 
laying their heads together for some time they 
agreed that the present should be a fruit of the 
tree of Immortality. So early next morning the 
Suka plucked a fruit off the tree of Immortality, 
and carefully catching it in his beak, started on his 
aerial journey. As he had a heavy weight to 
carry, the Suka was not able to reach the city of 
the king that day, and was benighted on the road. 
He took shelter in a tree, and was at a loss to know 
where to keep the fruit. If he kept it in his beak 
it was sure, he thought, to fall out when he fell 

asleep. Fortunately he saw a hole in the trunk of 

148 



X STRIKE BUT HEAR 

the tree in which he had taken shelter, and 
accordingly put the fruit in it. It so happened 
that in that hole there was a snake ; in the course 
of the night the snake darted its fangs on the fruit, 
and thus besmeared it with its poison. Early 
before crow-cawing the Suka, suspecting nothing, 
took up the fruit of Immortality in its beak, and 
began his aerial voyage. The Suka reached the 
palace while the king was sitting with his 
ministers. The king was delighted to see his pet 
bird come again, and greatly admired the beautiful 
fruit which the Suka had brought as a present. 
The fruit was very fair to look at ; it was the 
loveliest fruit in all the earth ; and as its name 
implies it makes the eater of it immortal. The 
king was going to eat it, but his courtiers said that 
it was not advisable for the king to eat it, as it 
might be a poisonous fruit. He accordingly threw 
it to a crow which was perched on the wall ; the 
crow ate a part of it ; but in a moment the crow 
fell down and died. The king, imagining that 
the Suka had intended to take away his life, took 
hold of the bird and killed it. The king ordered 
the stone of the deadly fruit, as it was thought to 
be, to be planted in a garden outside the city. 
The stone in course of time became a large tree 
bearing lovely fruit. The king ordered a fence to 
be put round the tree, and placed a guard lest 
people should eat of the fruit and die. There 
lived in that city an old Brahman and his wife, 
who used to live upon charity. The Brahman one 
day mourned his hard lot, and told his wife that 

149 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL x 

instead of leading the wretched life of a beggar he 
would eat the fruit of the poisonous tree in the 
king's garden and thus end his days. So that very- 
night he got up from his bed in order to get into 
the king's garden. His wife, suspecting her 
husband's intention, followed him, resolved also to 
eat of the fruit and die with her husband. As at 
that dead hour of night the guard was asleep, the 
old Brahman plucked a fruit and ate it. The 
woman said to her husband, ' If you die what is 
the use of my life ? I'll also eat and die.' So 
saying she plucked a fruit and ate it. Thinking 
that the poison would take some time to produce 
its due effect, they both went home and lay in bed, 
supposing that they would never rise again. To 
their infinite surprise next morning they found 
themselves to be not only alive, but young and 
vigorous. Their neighbours could scarcely re- 
cognise them — they had become so changed. 
The old Brahman had become handsome and 
vigorous, no grey hairs, no wrinkles on his cheeks ; 
and as for his wife, she had become as beautiful as 
any lady in the king's household. The king, 
hearing of this wonderful change, sent for the old 
Brahman, who told him all the circumstances. 
The king then greatly lamented the sad fate of his 
pet bird, and blamed himself for having killed it 
without fully inquiring into the case. 

" Hence it is," continued the youngest prince, 
" that I told your majesty that before you cut off 
a man's head you should inquire whether the man 

is really guilty. I know your majesty thinks that 

150 



X STRIKE BUT HEAR 

last night I entered your chamber with wicked 
intent. Be pleased to hear me before you strike. 
Last night as I was on my rounds I saw a female 
figure come out of the palace. On challenging 
her she said that she was Rajlakshmi, the guardian 
deity of the palace ; and that she was leaving the 
palace as the king would be killed that night. I 
told her to come in, and that I would prevent the 
king from being killed. I went straight into 
your bedroom, and saw a large cobra going round 
and round your golden bedstead. I killed the 
cobra, cut it up into a hundred pieces, and put 
them in the pan dish. But while I was cutting 
up the snake, a drop of its blood fell on the breast 
of my mother ; and then I thought that while I 
had saved my father I had killed my mother. I 
wrapped round my tongue a piece of cloth seven- 
fold and licked up the drop of blood. While I 
was licking up the blood, my mother opened her 
eyes and noticed me. This is what I have done ; 
now cut off my head if your majesty wishes it." 

The king filled with joy and gratitude 
embraced his son, and from that time loved him 
more even than he had loved him before. 

Thus my story endeth. 

The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc. 



151 



XI 

THE ADVENTURES OF TWO THIEVES 
AND OF THEIR SONS 

PART I 

Once on a time there lived two thieves in a village 
who earned their livelihood by stealing. As they 
were well-known thieves, every act of theft in the 
village was ascribed to them whether they com- 
mitted it or not ; they therefore left the village, 
and, being resolved to support themselves by honest 
labour, went to a neighbouring town for service. 
Both of them were engaged by a householder ; 
the one had to tend a cow, and the other to water 
a champaka plant. The elder thief began watering 
the plant early in the morning, and as he had been 
told to go on pouring water till some of it collected 
itself round the foot of the plant he went on 
pouring bucketful after bucketful : but to no 
purpose. No sooner was the water poured on the 
foot of the plant than it was forthwith sucked 
up by the thirsty earth ; and it was late in the 
afternoon when the thief, tired with drawing 

water, laid himself down on the ground, and fell 

152 



XI ADVENTURES OF TWO THIEVES 

asleep. The younger thief fared no better. The 
cow which he had to tend was the most vicious 
in the whole country. When taken out of the 
village for pasturage it galloped away to a great 
distance with its tail erect ; it ran from one paddy- 
field to another, and ate the corn and trod upon 
it; it entered into sugar-cane plantations and 
destroyed the sweet cane ; — for all which damage 
and acts of trespass the neatherd was soundly rated 
by the owners of the fields. What with running 
after the cow from field to field, from pool to pool ; 
what with the abusive language poured not only 
upon him, but upon his forefathers up to the 
fourteenth generation, by the owners of the fields 
in which the corn had been destroyed, — the 
younger thief had a miserable day of it. After a 
world of trouble he succeeded about sunset in 
catching hold of the cow, which he brought back 
to the house of his master. The elder thief had 
just roused himself from sleep when he saw the 
younger one bringing in the cow. Then the elder 
said to the younger — " Brother, why are you so 
late in coming from the fields ? " 

Younger. What shall I say, brother ? I took 
the cow to that part of the meadow where there 
is a tank, near which there is a large tree. I let 
the cow loose, and it began to graze about without 
giving the least trouble. I spread my gamchha ^ 
upon the grass under the tree ; and there was such 
a delicious breeze that I soon fell asleep, and I did 
not wake till after sunset ; and when I awoke I 

1 A towel used in bathing. 

^53 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xi 

saw my good cow grazing contentedly at the 
distance of a few paces. But how did you fare, 
brother ? 

'Elder. Oh, as for me, I had a jolly time of it. 
I had poured only one bucketful of water on the 
plant, when a large quantity rested round it. So my 
work was done, and I had the whole day to myself. 
I laid myself down on the ground ; I meditated 
on the joys of this new mode of life ; I whistled ; 
I sang ; and at last fell asleep. And I am up only 
this moment. 

When this talk was ended, the elder thief, 
believing that what the younger thief had said was 
true, thought that tending the cow was more 
comfortable than watering the plant ; and the 
younger thief, for the same reason, thought that 
watering the plant was more comfortable than 
tending the cow : each therefore resolved to ex- 
change his own work for that of the other. 

Elder. Well, brother, I have a wish to tend 
the cow. Suppose to-morrow you take my work, 
and I yours. Have you any objection .? 

Tounger. Not the slightest, brother. I shall 
be glad to take up your work, and you are quite 
welcome to take up mine. Only let me give you 
a bit of advice. I felt it rather uncomfortable to 
sleep nearly the whole of the day on the bare 
ground. If you take a charpoy^ with you, you 
will have a merry time of it. 

Early the following morning the elder thief 
went out with the cow to the fields, not forgetting 

1 A sort of bed made of rope, supported by posts of wood. 



XI ADVENTURES OF TWO THIEVES 

to take with him a charpoy for his ease and comfort ; 
and the younger thief began watering the plant. 
The latter had thought that one bucketful, or at 
the outside two bucketfuls, of water would be 
enough. But what was his surprise when he 
found that even a hundred bucketfuls were not 
sufficient to saturate the ground around the roots 
of the plant. He was dead tired with drawing 
water. The sun was almost going down, and yet 
his work was not over. At last he gave it up 
through sheer weariness. 

The elder thief in the fields was in no better 
case. He took the cow beside the tank which 
the younger thief had spoken of, put his charpoy 
under the large tree hard by, and then let the cow 
loose. As soon as the cow was let loose it went 
scampering about in the meadow, jumping over 
hedges and ditches, running through paddy-fields, 
and injuring sugar-cane plantations. The elder 
thief was not a little put about. He had to run 
about the whole day, and to be insulted by the 
people whose fields had been trespassed upon. 
But the worst of it was, that our thief had to 
run about the meadow with the charpoy on his 
head, for he could not put it anywhere for fear it 
should be taken away. When the other neatherds 
who were in the meadow saw the elder thief 
running about in breathless haste after the cow 
with the charpoy on his head, they clapped their 
hands and raised shouts of derision. The poor 
fellow, hungry and angry, bitterly repented of the 
exchange he had made. After infinite trouble, 

155 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xi 

and with the help of the other neatherds, he at 
last caught hold of the precious cow, and brought 
it home long after the village lamps had been lit. 

When the two thieves met in the house of 
their master, they merely laughed at each other 
without speaking a word. Their dinner over, they 
laid themselves to rest, when there took place the 
following conversation : — 

Younger. Well, how did you fare, brother 1 

'Elder. Just as you fared, and perhaps some 
degrees better. 

Younger. I am of opinion that our former 
trade of thieving was infinitely preferable to this 
sort of honest labour, as people call it. 

Elder. What doubt is there of that ? But, by 
the gods, I have never seen a cow which can be 
compared to this. It has no second in the world 
in point of viciousness. 

Younger. A vicious cow is not a rare thing. 
I have seen some cows as vicious. But have you 
ever seen a plant like this champaka plant which 
you were told to water ? I wonder what becomes 
of all the water that is poured round about it. 
Is there a tank below its roots ? 

Elder. I have a good mind to dig round it 
and see what is beneath it. 

Younger. We had better do so this night when 
the good man of the house and his wife are asleep. 

At about midnight the two thieves took spades 

and shovels and began digging round the plant. 

After digging a good deal the younger thief 

lighted upon some hard thing against which the 

156 



XI ADVENTURES OF TWO THIEVES 

shovel struck. The curiosity of both was excited. 
The younger thief saw that it was a large jar ; he 
thrust his hand into it and found that it was full 
of gold mohurs. But he said to the elder thief — 
" Oh, it is nothing ; it is only a large stone." 
The elder thief, however, suspected that it was 
something else ; but he took care not to give vent 
to his suspicion. Both agreed to give up digging 
as they had found nothing ; and they went to sleep. 
An hour or two after, when the elder thief saw 
that the younger thief was asleep, he quietly got 
up and went to the spot which had been digged. 
He saw the jar filled with gold mohurs. Digging 
a little near it, he found another jar also filled with 
gold mohurs. Overjoyed to find the treasure, he 
resolved to secure it. He took up both the jars, 
went to the tank which was near, and from which 
water used to be drawn for the plant, and buried 
them in the mud of its bank. He then returned 
to the house, and quietly laid himself down beside 
the younger thief, who was then fast asleep. The 
younger thief, who had first found the jar of gold 
mohurs, now woke, and softly stealing out of bed, 
went to secure the treasure he had seen. On 
going to the spot he did not see any jar ; he 
therefore naturally thought that his companion 
the elder thief had secreted it somewhere. He 
went to his sleeping partner, with a view to 
discover if possible by any marks on his body the 
place where the treasure had been hidden. He 
examined the person of his friend with the eye of 
a detective, and saw mud on his feet and near the 

157 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xi 

ankles. He immediately concluded the treasure 

must have been concealed somewhere in the tank. 

But in what part of the tank ? on which bank ? 

His ingenuity did not forsake him here. He 

walked round all the four banks of the tank. 

When he walked round three sides, the frogs on 

them jumped into the water ; but no frogs jumped 

from the fourth bank. He therefore concluded that 

the treasure must have been buried on the fourth 

bank. In a little he found the two jars filled 

with gold mohurs ; he took them up, and going 

into the cow-house brought out the vicious cow 

he had tended, and put the two jars on its back. 

He left the house and started for his native village. 

When the elder thief at crow-cawing got up 

from sleep, he was surprised not to find his 

companion beside him. He hastened to the tank 

and found that the jars were not there. He went 

to the cow-house, and did not see the vicious cow. 

He immediately concluded the younger thief must 

have run away with the treasure on the back of 

the cow. And where could he think of going .? 

He must be going to his native village. No 

sooner did this process of reasoning pass through 

his mind than he resolved forthwith to set out 

and overtake the younger thief. As he passed 

through the town, he invested all the money he 

had in a costly pair of shoes covered with gold 

lace. He walked very fast, avoiding the pubhc 

road and making short cuts. He descried the 

younger thief trudging on slowly with his cow. 

He went before him in the highway about a 

158 



XI ADVENTURES OF TWO THIEVES 

distance of 200 yards, and threw down on the road 
one shoe. He walked on another 200 yards and 
threw the other shoe at a place near which was a 
large tree ; amid the thick leaves of that tree he 
hid himself The younger thief coming along 
the public road saw the first shoe and said to 
himself— " What a beautiful shoe that is! It is 
of gold lace. It would have suited me in my 
present circumstances now that I have got rich. 
But what shall I do with one shoe .? " So he 
passed on. In a short time he came to the place 
where the other shoe was lying. The younger 
thief said within himself—" Ah, here is the other 
shoe ! What a fool I was, that I did not pick up 
the one I first saw ! However it is not too late. 
I'll tie the cow to yonder tree and go for the other 
shoe." He tied the cow to the tree, and taking 
up the second shoe went for the first, lying at a 
distance of about 200 yards. In the meantime the 
elder thief got down from the tree, loosened the 
cow, and drove it towards his native village, 
avoiding the king's highway. The younger thief 
on returning to the tree found that the cow was 
gone. He of course concluded that it could have 
been done only by the elder thief He walked as 
fast as his legs could carry him, and reached his 
native village long before the elder thief with 
the cow. He hid himself near the door of the 
elder thiefs house. The moment the elder thief 
arrived with the cow, the younger thief accosted 
him, saying— "So you are come safe, brother. 
Let us go in and divide the money." To this 

159 






FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xi 

proposal the elder thief readily agreed. In the 
inner yard of the house the two jars were taken down 
from the back of the cow ; they went to a room, 
bolted the door, and began dividing. Two mohurs 
were taken up by the hand, one was put in one 
place, and the other in another ; and they went on 
doing that till the jars became empty. But last 
of all one gold mohur remained. The question 
was — Who was to take it .? Both agreed that 
it should be changed the next morning, and the 
silver cash equally divided. But with whom was 
the single mohur to remain .? There was not a 
little wrangling about the matter. After a great 
deal of yea and nay, it was settled that it should 
remain with the elder thief, and that next morn- 
ing it should be changed and equally divided. 

At night the elder thief said to his wife and the 
other women of the house, " Look here, ladies, 
the younger thief will come to-morrow morning 
to demand the share of the remaining gold mohur ; 
but I don't mean to give it to him. You do one 
thing to-morrow. Spread a cloth on the ground 
in the yard. I will lay myself on the cloth pretend- 
ing to be dead ; and to convince people that I 
am dead, put a tulasi^ plant near my head. And 
when you see the younger thief coming to the 
door, you set up a loud cry and lamentation. Then 
he will of course go away, and I shall not have to 
pay his share of the gold mohur." To this proposal 
the women readily agreed. Accordingly the next 
day, about noon, the elder thief laid himself down 

^ The sacred basil. 
1 60 



XI ADVENTURES OF TWO THIEVES 

in the yard like a corpse with the sacred basil near 
his head. When the younger thief was seen coming 
near the house, the women set up a loud cry, and 
when he came nearer and nearer, wondering what 
it all meant, they said, " Oh, where did you both 
go ? What did you bring ? What did you do to 
him ? Look, he is dead ! " So saying they rent 
the air with their cries. The younger thief, seeing 
through the whole, said, " Well, I am sorry my 
friend and brother is gone. I must now attend to 
his funeral. You all go away from this place, you 
are but women. I'll see to it that the remains are 
well burnt." He brought a quantity of straw and 
twisted it into a rope, which he fastened to the legs 
of the deceased man, and began tugging him, 
saying that he was going to take him to the place 
of burning. While the elder thief was being 
dragged through the streets, his body was getting 
dreadfully scratched and bruised, but he held his 
peace, being resolved to act his part out, and thus 
escape giving the share of the gold mohur. The 
sun had gone down when the younger thief with 
the corpse reached the place of burning. But as 
he was making preparations for a funeral pile, he 
remembered that he had not brought fire with 
him. If he went for fire leaving the elder thief 
behind, he would undoubtedly run away. What 
then was to be done ? At last he tied the straw 
rope to the branch of a tree, and kept the pretended 
corpse hanging in the air, and he himself climbed 
into the tree and sat on that branch, keeping tight 
hold of the rope lest it should break, and the elder 

l6l M 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xi 

thief run away. While they were in this state, a 

gang of robbers passed by. On seeing the corpse 

hanging, the head of the gang said, " This raid of 

ours has begun very auspiciously. Brahmans and 

Pandits say that if on starting on a journey one sees 

a corpse, it is a good omen. Well, we have seen a 

corpse, it is therefore likely that we shall meet 

with success this night. If we do, I propose one 

thing : on our return let us first burn this dead 

body and then return home." All the robbers 

agreed to this proposal. The robbers then entered 

into the house of a rich man in the village, put its 

inmates to the sword, robbed it of all its treasures, 

and withal managed it so cleverly that not a mouse 

stirred in the village. As they were successful 

beyond measure, they resolved on their return to 

burn the dead body they had seen. When they 

came to the place of burning they found the corpse 

hanging as before, for the elder thief had not yet 

opened his mouth lest he should be obliged to give 

half of the gold mohur. The thieves dug a 

hollow in the ground, brought fuel, and laid it 

upon the hollow. They took down the corpse 

from the tree, and laid it upon the pile ; and as 

they were going to set it on fire, the corpse gave out 

an unearthly scream and jumped up. That very 

moment the younger thief jumped down from the 

tree with a similar scream. The robbers were 

frightened beyond measure. They thought that a 

Da?ia (evil spirit) had possessed the corpse, and 

that a ghost jumped down from the tree. They 

ran away in great fear, leaving behind them the 

162 



" They ran away in great fear, leaving behind them 
the money and jewels," 



ui 

J 
(B 

o 

•i 
\ 

or 




XI ADVENTURES OF TWO THIEVES 

money and the jewels which they had obtained by 
robbery. The two thieves laughed heartily, took 
up all the riches of the robbers, went home, and 
lived merrily for a long time. 

PART II 

The elder thief and the younger thief had one 

son each. As they had been so far successful in 

life by practising the art of thieving, they resolved 

to train up their sons to the same profession. 

There was in the village a Professor of the Science 

of Roguery, who took pupils, and gave them 

lessons in that difficult science. The two thieves 

put their sons under this renowned Professor. The 

son of the elder thief distinguished himself very 

much, and bade fair to surpass his father in the art 

of stealing. The lad's cleverness was tested in the 

following manner. Not far from the Professor's 

house there lived a poor man in a hut, upon the 

thatch of which climbed a creeper of the gourd 

kind. In the middle of the thatch, which was 

also its topmost part, there was a splendid gourd, 

which the man and his wife watched day and 

night. They certainly slept at night, but then the 

thatch was so old and rickety that if even a mouse 

went up to it bits of straw and particles of earth 

used to fall inside the hut, and the man and his 

wife slept right below the spot where the gourd 

was ; so that it was next to impossible to steal the 

gourd without the knowledge of its owners. The 

Professor said to his pupils — for he had many — 

163 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xi 

that any one who stole the gourd without being 
caught would be pronounced the dux of the school. 
Our elder thief's son at once accepted the offer. 
He said he would steal away the gourd if he were 
allowed the use of three things, namely, a string, 
a cat, and a knife. The Professor allowed him the 
use of these three things. Two or three hours 
after nightfall, the lad, furnished with the three 
things mentioned above, sat behind the thatch 
under the eaves, listening to the conversation 
carried on by the man and his wife lying in bed 
inside the hut. In a short time the conversation 
ceased. The lad then concluded that they must 
both have fallen asleep. He waited half an hour 
longer, and hearing no sound inside, gently climbed 
up on the thatch. Chips of straw and particles of 
earth fell upon the couple sleeping inside. The 
woman woke up, and rousing her husband said, 
" Look there, some one is stealing the gourd ! " 
That moment the lad squeezed the throat of the 
cat, and puss immediately gave out her usual 
" Mew ! mew ! mew! " The husband said, " Don't 
you hear the cat mewing ? There is no thief; it 
is only a cat." The lad in the meantime cut the 
gourd from the plant with his knife, and tied the 
string which he had with him to its stalk. But 
how was he to get down without being discovered 
and caught, especially as the man and the woman 
were now awake .? The woman was not convinced 
that it was only a cat ; the shaking of the thatch, 
and the constant falling of bits of straw and particles 

of dust, made her think that it was a human being 

164 



XI ADVENTURES OF TWO THIEVES 

that was upon the thatch. She was telling her 
husband to go out and see whether a man was not 
there ; but he maintained that it was only a cat. 
While the man and woman were thus disputing with 
each other, the lad with great force threw down the 
cat upon the ground, on which the poor animal 
purred most vociferously ; and the man said aloud to 
his wife, " There it is ; you are now convinced that 
it was only a cat." In the meantime, during the 
confusion created by the clamour of the cat and the 
loud talk of the man, the lad quietly came down 
from the thatch with the gourd tied to the string. 
Next morning the lad produced the gourd before 
his teacher, and described to him and to his 
admiring comrades the manner in which he had 
committed the theft. The Professor was in ecstasy, 
and remarked, " The worthy son of a worthy 
father." But the elder thief, the father of our 
hopeful genius, was by no means satisfied that his 
son was as yet fit to enter the world. He wanted 
to prove him still further. Addressing his son he 
said, "My son, if you can do what I tell you, I'll 
think you fit to enter the world. If you can steal 
the gold chain of the queen of this country from 
her neck, and bring it to me, I'll think you fit to 
enter the world." The gifted son readily agreed 
to do the daring deed. 

The young thief — for so we shall now call the 
son of the elder thief — made a reconnaissance of 
the palace in which the king and queen lived. 
He reconnoitred all the four gates, and all the 
outer and inner walls as far as he could ; and 

165 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xi 

gathered incidentally a good deal of information, 
from people living in the neighbourhood, regarding 
the habits of the king and queen, in what part of 
the palace they slept, what guards there were 
near the bedchamber, and who, if any, slept in the 
antechamber. Armed with all this knowledge 
the young thief fixed upon one dark night for 
doing the daring deed. He took with him a 
sword, a hammer and some large nails, and put 
on very dark clothes. Thus accoutred he went 
prowling about the Lion gate of the palace. 
Before the zenana ^ could be got at, four doors, 
including the Lion gate, had to be passed ; and 
each of these doors had a guard of sixteen stalwart 
men. The same men, however, did not remain 
all night at their post. As the king had an infinite 
number of soldiers at his command, the guards at 
the doors were relieved every hour ; so that once 
every hour at each door there were thirty-two 
men present, consisting of the relieving party and 
of the relieved. The young thief chose that 
particular moment of time for entering each of 
the four doors. At the time of relief when he 
saw the Lion gate crowded with thirty-two men, 
he joined the crowd without being taken notice 
of; he then spent the hour preceding the next 
relief in the large open space and garden between 
two doors ; and he could not be taken notice of, as 
the night as well as his clothes was pitch dark. 

^ Zenana is not the name of a province in India, as the good people of 
Scotland the other day took it to be, but the innermost department of a 
Hindu or Mohammedan house which the women occupy. 

1 66 



XI ADVENTURES OF TWO THIEVES 

In a similar manner he passed the second door, 
the third door, and the fourth door. And now 
the queen's bedchamber stared him in the face. 
It was in the third loft ; there was a bright light 
in it ; and a low voice was heard as that of a 
woman saying something in a humdrum manner. 
The young thief thought that the voice must be 
the voice of a maid-servant reciting a story, as he 
had learnt was the custom in the palace every 
night, for composing the king and queen to sleep. 
But how to get up into the third loft ? The inner 
doors were all closed, and there were guards 
everywhere. But the young thief had with him 
nails and a hammer : why not drive the nails into 
the wall and climb up by them ? True ; but the 
driving of nails into the wall would make a great 
noise which would rouse the guards, and possibly 
the king and queen, — at any rate the maid-servant 
reciting stories would give the alarm. Our 
erratic genius had considered that matter well 
before engaging in the work. There is a water- 
clock in the palace which shows the hours ; and 
at the end of every hour a very large Chinese 
gong is struck, the sound of which is so loud that 
it is not only heard all over the palace, but over 
most part of the city ; and the peculiarity of the 
gong, as of every Chinese gong, was that nearly 
one minute must elapse after the first stroke before 
the second stroke could be made, to allow the 
gong to give out the whole of its sound. The 
thief fixed upon the minutes when the gong was 

struck at the end of every hour for driving nails 

167 



* FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xi 

into the wall. At ten o'clock when the gong was 
struck ten times, the thief found it easy to drive 
ten nails into the wall. When the gong stopped, 
the thief also stopped, and either sat or stood quiet 
on the ninth nail catching hold of the tenth which 
was above the other. At eleven o'clock he drove 
into the wall in a similar manner eleven nails, and 
got a little higher than the second story ; and by 
twelve o'clock he was in the loft where the royal 
bedchamber was. Peeping in he saw a drowsy 
maid -servant drowsily reciting a story, and the 
king and queen apparently asleep. He went 
stealthily behind the story-telling maid-servant 
and took his seat. The queen was lying down 
on a richly furnished bedstead of gold beside the 
king. The massive chain of gold round the neck 
of the queen was gleaming in candle-light. The 
thief quietly listened to the story of the drowsy 
maid - servant. She was becoming more and 
more sleepy. She stopped for a second, nodded 
her head, and again resumed the story. It was 
plain she was under the influence of sleep. In 
a moment the thief cut off the head of the maid- 
servant with his sword, and himself went on 
reciting for some minutes the story which the 
woman was telling. The king and queen were 
unconscious of any change as to the person of the 
story-teller, for they were both in deep sleep. He 
stripped the murdered woman of her clothes, put 
them on himself, tied up his own clothes in a 
bundle, and walking softly, gently took off the 

chain from the neck of the queen. He then went 

i68 



XI ADVENTURES OF TWO THIEVES 

through the rooms down stairs, ordered the inner 
guard to open the door, as she was obliged 
to go out of the palace for purposes of necessity. 
The guards, seeing that it was the queen's maid- 
servant, readily allowed her to go out. In the 
same manner, and with the same pretext, he got 
through the other doors, and at last out into the 
street. That very night, or rather morning, the 
young thief put into his father's hand the gold 
chain of the queen. The elder thief could scarcely 
believe his own eyes. It was so like a dream. His 
joy knew no bounds. Addressing his son he 
said — " Well done, my son ; you are not only as 
clever as your father, but you have beaten me 
hollow. The gods give you long life, my son." 

Next morning when the king and queen got 
up from bed, they were shocked to see the maid- 
servant lying in a pool of blood. The queen also 
found that her gold chain was not round her neck. 
They could not make out how all this could have 
taken place. How could any thief manage to 
elude the vigilance of so many guards ? How 
could he get into the queen's bedchamber ? And 
how could he again escape ? The king found 
from the reports of the guards that a person 
calling herself the royal maid-servant had gone out 
of the palace some hours before dawn. All sorts 
of inquiries were made, but in vain. Proclamation 
was made in the city ; a large reward was offered 
to any one who would give information tending to 
the apprehension of the thief and murderer. But 

no one responded to the call. At last the king 

169 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xi 

ordered a camel to be brought to him. On the 
back of the animal was placed two large bags 
filled with gold mohurs. The man taking charge 
of the bags upon the camel was ordered to go 
through every part of the city making the follow- 
ing challenge : — " As the thief was daring enough 
to steal away a gold chain from the neck of 
the queen, let him further show his daring by 
stealing the gold mohurs from the back of this 
camel." Two days and nights the camel paraded 
through the city, but nothing happened. On the 
third night as the camel- driver was going his 
rounds he was accosted by a sannyasi^ who sat on 
a tiger's skin before a fire, and near whom was 
a monstrous pair of tongs. This santiyasi was no 
other than the young thief in disguise. The 
samiyasi said to the camel-driver — " Brother, why 
are you going through the city in this manner .? 
Who is there so daring as to steal from the back 
of the king's camel .? Come down, friend, and 
smoke with me." The camel-driver alighted, tied 
the camel to a tree on the spot, and began 
smoking. The mendicant supplied him not only 
with tobacco, but with ganja and other intoxicating 
drugs, so that in a short time the camel-driver 
became quite intoxicated and fell asleep. The 
young thief led away the camel with the treasure 
on its back in the dead of night, through narrow 
lanes and bye-paths to his own house. That very 
night the camel was killed, and its carcase buried 
in deep pits in the earth, and the thing was so 

^ A religious mendicant. 
170 



"The camel-driver alighted, tied the camel to a tree 
on the spot, and began smoking." 







vvAHwicK Goeuf-:. 



XI ADVENTURES OF TWO THIEVES 

managed that no one could discover any trace 

of it. 

The next morning when the king heard that 

the camel-driver was lying drunk in the street, 

and that the camel had been made away with 

together with the treasure, he was almost beside 

himself with anger. Proclamation was made in 

the city to the effect that whoever caught the 

thief would get the reward of a lakh of rupees. 

The son of the younger thief — who, by the way, 

was in the same school of roguery with the son of 

the elder thief, though he did not distinguish 

himself so much — now came to the front and said 

that he would apprehend the thief. He of course 

suspected that the son of the elder thief must have 

done it — for who so daring and clever as he ? In 

the evening of the following day the son of the 

younger thief disguised himself as a woman, and 

coming to that part of the town where the young 

thief lived, began to weep very much, and went 

from door to door saying — " O sirs, can any of you 

give me a bit of camel's flesh, for my son is dying, 

and the doctors say nothing but eating camel's 

meat can save his life. O for pity's sake, do give 

me a bit of camel's flesh." At last he went to the 

house of the young thief, and begged of the wife 

— for the young thief himself was out — to tell him 

where he could get hold of camel's flesh, as his son 

would assuredly perish if it could not be got. 

Saying this he rent the air with his cries, and fell 

down at the feet of the young thiefs wife. 

Woman as she was, though the wife of a thief, she 

171 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xi 

felt pity for the supposed woman, and said — " Wait, 
and I will try and get some camel's flesh for your 
son." So saying, she secretly went to the spot 
where the dead camel had been buried, brought a 
small quantity of flesh, and gave it to the party. 
The son of the younger thief was now entranced 
with joy. He went and told the king that he had 
succeeded in tracing the thief, and would be ready 
to deliver him up at night if the king would send 
some constables with him. At night the elder 
thief and his son were captured, the body of the 
camel dug out, and all the treasures in the house 
seized. The following morning the king sat in 
judgment. The son of the elder thief confessed 
that he had stolen the queen's gold chain, and 
killed the maid-servant, and had taken away the 
camel ; but he added that the person who had 
detected him and his father — the younger thief — 
were also thieves and murderers, of which fact he 
gave undoubted proofs. As the king had promised 
to give a lakh of rupees to the detective, that sum 
was placed before the son of the younger thief. 
But soon after he ordered four pits to be dug in 
the earth in which were buried alive, with all 
sorts of thorns and thistles, the elder thief and the 
younger thief, and their two sons. 

Here my story endeth. 

The Natiya-thorn wither eth^ etc. 



172 



XII 

THE GHOST-BRAHMAN 

Once on a time there lived a poor Brahman, who 
not being a Kulin, found it the hardest thing in 
the world to get married. He went to rich 
people and begged of them to give him money 
that he might marry a wife. And a large sum of 
money was needed, not so much for the expenses 
of the wedding, as for giving to the parents of the 
bride. He begged from door to door, flattered 
many rich folk, and at last succeeded in scraping 
together the sum needed. The wedding took 
place in due time ; and he brought home his wife 
to his mother. After a short time he said to his 
mother — " Mother, I have no means to support 
you and my wife ; I must therefore go to distant 
countries to get money somehow or other. I may 
be away for years, for I won't return till I get a 
good sum. In the meantime I'll give you what I 
have ; you make the best of it, and take care of 
my wife." The Brahman receiving his mother's 
blessing set out on his travels. In the evening 
of that very day, a ghost assuming the exact 
appearance of the Brahman came into the house. 

173 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xii 

The newly married woman, thinking it was her 
husband, said to him — " How is it that you have 
returned so soon ? You said you might be away 
for years ; why have you changed your mind ? " 
The ghost said— " To-day is not a lucky day, I 
have therefore returned home ; besides, I have 
already got some money." The mother did not 
doubt but that it was her son. So the ghost lived 
in the house as if he was its owner, and as if he 
was the son of the old woman and the husband 
of the young woman. As the ghost and the 
Brahman were exactly like each other in every- 
thing, like two peas, the people in the neigh- 
bourhood all thought that the ghost was the 
real Brahman. After some years the Brahman 
returned from his travels ; and what was his 
surprise when he found another like him in 
the house. The ghost said to the Brahman — 
" Who are you ? what business have you to come 
to my house ? " " Who am I ? " replied the 
Brahman, " let me ask who you are. This is my 
house ; that is my mother, and this is my wife." 
The ghost said—" Why herein is a strange thing. 
Every one knows that this is my house, that is my 
wife, and yonder is my mother ; and I have lived 
here for years. And you pretend this is your 
house, and that woman is your wife. Your head 
must have got turned. Brahman." So saying the 
ghost drove away the Brahman from his house. 
The Brahman became mute with wonder. He 
did not know what to do. At last he bethought 
himself of going to the king and of laying his case 

174 



" ' How is it that you have returned so soon ? ' 



XII THE GHOST-BRAHMAN 

before him. The king saw the ghost-Brahman as 
well as the Brahman, and the one was the picture 
of the other ; so he was in a fix, and did not know 
how to decide the quarrel. Day after day the 
Brahman went to the king and besought him to 
give him back his house, his wife, and his mother ; 
and the king, not knowing what to say every time, 
put him off to the following day. Every day the 
king tells him to — "Come to-morrow"; and 
every day the Brahman goes away from the palace 
weeping and striking his forehead with the palm 
of his hand, and saying — " What a wicked world 
this is ! I am driven from my own house, and 
another fellow has taken possession of my house 
and of my wife ! And what a king this is ! He 
does not do justice." 

Now, it came to pass that as the Brahman 
went away every day from the court outside the 
town, he passed a spot at which a great many cow- 
boys used to play. They let the cows graze on 
the meadow, while they themselves met together 
under a large tree to play. And they played at 
royalty. One cowboy was elected king ; another, 
prime minister or vizier ; another, kotwal, or 
prefect of the police ; and others, constables. 
Every day for several days together they saw the 
Brahman passing by weeping. One day the cow- 
boy king asked his vizier whether he knew why 
the Brahman wept every day. On the vizier not 
being able to answer the question, the cowboy 
king ordered one of his constables to bring the 
Brahman to him. One of them went and said to 

175 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xii 

the Brahman — " The king requires your immediate 

attendance." The Brahman replied — " What for ? 

I have just come from the king, and he put me off 

till to-morrow. Why does he want me again ? " 

" It is our king that wants you — our neat-herd 

king," rejoined the constable. " Who is neat-herd 

king ? " asked the Brahman. " Come and see," 

was the reply. The neat-herd king then asked the 

Brahman why he every day went away weeping. 

The Brahman then told him his sad story. The 

neat-herd king, after hearing the whole, said, " I 

understand your case ; I will give you again all 

your rights. Only go to the king and ask his 

permission for me to decide your case." The 

Brahman went back to the king of the country, 

and begged his Majesty to send his case to the 

neat-herd king, who had offered to decide it. The 

king, whom the case had greatly puzzled, granted 

the permission sought. The following morning 

was fixed for the trial. The neat-herd king, who 

saw through the whole, brought with him next 

day a phial with a narrow neck. The Brahman 

and the ghost-Brahman both appeared at the bar. 

After a great deal of examination of witnesses and 

of speech-making, the neat-herd king said — 

" Well, I have heard enough. I'll decide the case 

at once. Here is this phial. Whichever of you 

will enter into it shall be declared by the court to 

be the rightful owner of the house the title of 

which is in dispute. Now, let me see, which of 

you will enter." The Brahman said — " You are a 

neat-herd, and your intellect is that of a neat-herd. 

176 



XII THE GHOST-BRAHMAN 

What man can enter into such a small phial ? " 
" If you cannot enter," said the neat-herd king, 
" then you are not the rightful owner. What do 
you say, sir, to this ? " turning to the ghost- 
Brahman and addressing him. " If you can enter 
into the phial, then the house and the wife and 
the mother become yours." " Of course I will 
enter," said the ghost. And true to his word, to 
the wonder of all, he made himself into a small 
creature like an insect, and entered into the phial. 
The neat-herd king forthwith corked up the phial, 
and the ghost could not get out. Then, addressing 
the Brahman, the neat-herd king said, "Throw 
this phial into the bottom of the sea, and take 
possession of your house, wife, and mother." The 
Brahman did so, and lived happily for many years 
and begat sons and daughters. 

Here my story endeth^ 

The Natiya-thorn wither eth^ etc. 



Ill N 



XIII 

THE MAN WHO WISHED TO BE 

PERFECT 

Once on a time a religious mendicant came to a 
king who had no issue, and said to him, " As you 
are anxious to have a son, I can give to the queen 
a drug, by swallowing which she will give birth 
to twin sons ; but I will give the medicine on this 
condition, that of those twins you will give one 
to me, and keep the other yourself." The king 
thought the condition somewhat hard, but as he 
was anxious to have a son to bear his name, and 
inherit his wealth and kingdom, he at last agreed 
to the terms. Accordingly the queen swallowed 
the drug, and in due time gave birth to two sons. 
The twin brothers became one year old, two years 
old, three years old, four years old, five years old, 
and still the mendicant did not appear to claim his 
share ; the king and queen therefore thought that 
the mendicant, who was old, was dead, and dismissed 
all fears from their minds. But the mendicant was 
not dead, but living ; he was counting the years care- 
fully. The young princes were put under tutors, and 

178 



XIII MAN WHO WISHED TO BE PERFECT 

made rapid progress in learning, as well as in the 
arts of riding and shooting with the bow ; and 
as they were uncommonly handsome, they were 
admired by all the people. When the princes 
were sixteen years old the mendicant made his 
appearance at the palace gate, and demanded the 
fulfilment of the king's promise. The hearts of the 
king and of the queen were dried up within them. 
They had thought that the mendicant was no more 
in the land of the living ; but what was their 
surprise when they saw him standing at the gate 
in flesh and blood, and demanding one of the young 
princes for himself.? The king and queen were 
plunged into a sea of grief There was nothing 
for it, however, but to part with one of the princes ; 
for the mendicant might by his curse turn into 
ashes not only both the princes, but also the king, 
queen, palace, and the whole of the kingdom to 
boot. But which one was to be given away ? 
The one was as dear as the other. A fearful 
struggle arose in the hearts of the king and queen. 
As for the young princes, each of them said, " I'll 
go," " I'll go." The younger one said to the elder, 
" You are older, if only by a few minutes ; you are 
the pride of my father ; you remain at home, I'll 
go with the mendicant." The elder said to the 
younger, " You are younger than I am ; you are 
the joy of my mother ; you remain at home, I'll 
go with the mendicant." After a great deal of 
yea and nay, after a great deal of mourning and 
lamentation, after the queen had wetted her clothes 
with her tears, the elder prince was let go with the 

179 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xiii 

mendicant. But before the prince left his father's 

roof he planted with his own hands a tree in the 

courtyard of the palace, and said to his parents and 

brother, " This tree is my life. When you see the 

tree green and fresh, then know that it is well with 

me ; when you see the tree fade in some parts, 

then know that I am in an ill case ; and when 

you see the whole tree fade, then know that I am 

dead and gone.'^ Then kissing and embracing the 

king and queen and his brother, he followed the 

mendicant. 

As the mendicant and the prince were wending 

their way towards the forest they saw some dog's 

whelps on the roadside. One of the whelps said 

to its dam, " Mother, I wish to go with that 

handsome young man, who must be a prince." 

The dam said, " Go " ; and the prince gladly took 

the puppy as his companion. They had not gone 

far when upon a tree on the roadside they saw a 

hawk and its young ones. One of the young ones 

said to its dam, " Mother, I wish to go with that 

handsome young man, who must be the son of a 

king." The hawk said, " Go " ; and the prince 

gladly took the young hawk as his companion. So 

the mendicant, the prince, with the puppy and the 

young hawk, went on their journey. At last they 

went into the depth of the forest far away from the 

houses of men, where they stopped before a hut 

thatched with leaves. That was the mendicant's 

cell. The mendicant said to the prince, " You are 

to live in this hut with me. Your chief work will 

be to cull flowers from the forest for my devotions. 

i8o 



1; ■' , 




" At dawn he used to cull flowers in the forest." 



XIII MAN WHO WISHED TO BE PERFECT 

You can go on every side except the north. If 

you go towards the north evil will betide you. 

You can eat whatever fruit or root you like ; and 

for your drink, you will get it from the brook." 

The prince disliked neither the place nor his work. 

At dawn he used to cull flowers in the forest and 

give them to the mendicant ; after which the 

mendicant went away somewhere the whole day 

and did not return till sundown ; so the prince had 

the whole day to himself. He used to walk about 

in the forest with his two companions — the puppy 

and the young hawk. He used to shoot arrows 

at the deer, of which there was a great number ; 

and thus made the best of his time. One day as he 

pierced a stag with an arrow, the wounded stag ran 

towards the north, and the prince, not thinking of 

the mendicant's behest, followed the stag, which 

entered into a fine-looking house that stood close 

by. The prince entered, but instead of finding the 

deer he saw a young woman of matchless beauty 

sitting near the door with a dice-table set before 

her. The prince was rooted to the spot while 

he admired the heaven-born beauty of the lady. 

" Come in, stranger," said the lady ; " chance has 

brought you here, but don't go away without 

having with me a game of dice." The prince 

gladly agreed to the proposal. As it was a game 

of risk they agreed that if the prince lost the game 

he should give his young hawk to the lady ; and 

that if the lady lost it, she should give to the prince 

a young hawk just like that of the prince. The 

lady won the game ; she therefore took the prince's 

i8i 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xiii 

young hawk and kept it in a hole covered with a 

plank. The prince offered to play a second time, 

and the lady agreeing to it, they fell to it again, on 

the condition that if the lady won the game she 

should take the prince's puppy, and if she lost it 

she should give to the prince a puppy just like that 

of the prince. The lady won again, and stowed 

away the puppy in another hole with a plank upon 

it. The prince offered to play a third time, and 

the wager was that, if the prince lost the game, he 

should give himself up to the lady to be done to by 

her anything she pleased ; and that if he won, the 

lady should give him a young man exactly like 

himself. The lady won the game a third time ; 

she therefore caught hold of the prince and put 

him in a hole covered over with a plank. Now, 

the beautiful lady was not a woman at all ; she was 

a Rakshasi who lived upon human flesh, and her 

mouth watered at the sight of the tender body of 

the young prince. But as she had had her food 

that day she reserved the prince for the meal of the 

following day. 

Meantime there was great weeping in the 

house of the prince's father. His brother used 

every day to look at the tree planted in the 

courtyard by his own hand. Hitherto he had 

found the leaves of a living green colour ; but 

suddenly he found some leaves fading. He gave 

the alarm to the king and queen, and told them 

how the leaves were fading. They concluded that 

the life of the elder prince must be in great danger. 

The younger prince therefore resolved to go to 

182 



XIII MAN WHO WISHED TO BE PERFECT 

the help of his brother, but before going he 
planted a tree in the courtyard of the palace, 
similar to the one his brother had planted, and 
which was to be the index of the manner of his 
life. He chose the swiftest steed in the king's 
stables, and galloped towards the forest. In the 
way he saw a dog with a puppy, and the puppy 
thinking that the rider was the same that had 
taken away his fellow-cub — for the two princes 
were exactly like each other — said, " As you have 
taken away my brother, take me also with you." 
The younger prince understanding that his brother 
had taken away a puppy, he took up that cub as 
a companion. Further on, a young hawk, which 
was perched on a tree on the roadside, said to the 
prince, " You have taken away my brother ; take 
me also, I beseech you " ; on which the younger 
prince readily took it up. With these companions 
he went into the heart of the forest, where he saw 
a hut which he supposed to be the mendicant's. 
But neither the mendicant nor his brother was 
there. Not knowing what to do or where to go, 
he dismounted from his horse, allowed it to graze, 
while he himself sat inside the house. At sunset 
the mendicant returned to his hut, and seeing the 
younger prince, said, " I am glad to see you. I 
told your brother never to go towards the north, 
for evil in that case would betide him ; but it 
seems that, disobeying my orders, he has gone to 
the north and has fallen into the toils of a Rakshasi 
who lives there. There is no hope of rescuing 
him ; perhaps he has already been devoured." 

183 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xiii 

The younger prince forthwith went towards the 
north, where he saw a stag which he pierced with 
an arrow. The stag ran into a house which stood 
by, and the younger prince followed it. He was 
not a little astonished when, instead of seeing a 
stag, he saw a woman of exquisite beauty. He 
immediately concluded, from what he had heard 
from the mendicant, that the pretended woman was 
none other than the Rakshasi in whose power his 
brother was. The lady asked him to play a game 
of dice with her. He complied with the request, 
and on the same conditions on which the elder 
prince had played. The younger prince won ; on 
which the lady produced the young hawk from 
the hole and gave it to the prince. The joy 
of the two hawks on meeting each other was 
great. The lady and the prince played a second 
time, and the prince won again. The lady there- 
fore brought to the prince the young puppy lying 
in the hole. They played a third time, and the 
prince won a third time. The lady demurred to 
producing a young man exactly like the prince, 
pretending that it was impossible to get one ; but 
on the prince insisting upon the fulfilment of the 
condition, his brother was produced. The joy of 
the two brothers on meeting each other was great. 
The Rakshasi said to the princes, " Don't kill me, 
and I will tell you a secret which will save the 
life of the elder prince." She then told them that 
the mendicant was a worshipper of the goddess 
Kali, who had a temple not far off; that he be- 
longed to that sect of Hindus who seek perfection 

184 . 



XIII MAN WHO WISHED TO BE PERFECT 

from intercourse with the spirits of departed men ; 
that he had already sacrificed at the altar of Kali 
six human victims whose skulls could be seen in 
niches inside her temple ; that he would become 
perfect when the seventh victim was sacrificed ; 
and that the elder prince was intended for the 
seventh victim. The Rakshasi then told the 
prince to go immediately to the temple to find 
out the truth of what she had said. To the temple 
they accordingly went. When the elder prince 
went inside the temple, the skulls in the niches 
laughed a ghastly laugh. Horror-struck at the 
sight and sound, he inquired the cause of the 
laughter ; and the skulls told him that they were 
glad because they were about to get another added 
to their number. One of the skulls, as spokesman 
of the rest, said, " Young prince, in a few days 
the mendicant's devotions will be completed, and 
you will be brought into this temple and your 
head will be cut ofi^, and you will keep company 
with us. But there is one way by which you can 
escape that fate and do us good." " Oh, do tell 
me," said the prince, " what that way is, and I 
promise to do you all the good I can." The skull 
replied, " When the mendicant brings you into 
this temple to offer you up as a sacrifice, before 
cutting off your head he will tell you to prostrate 
yourself before Mother Kali, and while you 
prostrate yourself he will cut off your head. But 
take our advice, when he tells you to bow down 
before Kali, you tell him that as a prince you never 
bowed down to any one, that you never knew 

185 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xiii 

what bowing down was, and that the mendicant 
should show it to you by himself doing it in your 
presence. And when he bows down to show you 
how it is done, you take up your sword and sepa- 
rate his head from his body. And when you do 
that we shall all be restored to life, as the mendi- 
cant's vows will be unfulfilled." The elder prince 
thanked the skulls for their advice, and went into 
the hut of the mendicant along with his younger 
brother. 

In the course of a few days the mendicant's 
devotions were completed. On the following 
day he told the prince to go along with him 
to the temple of Kali, for what reason he did 
not mention ; but the prince knew it was to 
offer him up as a victim to the goddess. The 
younger prince also went with them, but he 
was not allowed to go inside the temple. The 
mendicant then stood in the presence of Kali 
and said to the prince, " Bow down to the 
goddess." The prince replied, '* I have not, as 
a prince, bowed to any one ; I do not know how 
to perform the act of prostration. Please show 
me the way first, and FU gladly do it." The 
mendicant then prostrated himself before the 
goddess ; and while he was doing so the prince 
at one stroke of his sword separated his head 
from his body. Immediately the skulls in the 
niches of the temple laughed aloud, and the 
goddess herself became propitious to the prince 
and gave him that virtue of perfection which the 

mendicant had sought to obtain. The skulls were 

i86 



XIII MAN WHO WISHED TO BE PERFECT 

again united to their respective bodies and became 
living men, and the two princes returned to their 
country. 

Here my story endeth^ 

The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc. 



187 



XIV 
A GHOSTLY WIFE 

Once on a time there lived a Brahman who had 
married a wife, and who lived in the same house 
with his mother. Near his house was a tank, on 
the embankment of which stood a tree, on the 
boughs of which lived a ghost of the kind called 
Sankchinni} One night the Brahman's wife had 
occasion to go to the tank, and as she went she 
brushed by a Sankchinni who stood near ; on 
which the she -ghost got very angry with the 
woman, seized her by the throat, climbed into her 
tree, and thrust her into a hole in the trunk. 
There the woman lay almost dead with fear. 
The ghost put on the clothes of the woman and 
went into the house of the Brahman. Neither 
the Brahman nor his mother had any inkling of the 
change. The Brahman thought his wife returned 
from the tank, and the mother thought that it was 
her daughter-in-law. Next morning the mother- 
in-law discovered some change in her daughter- 

* Sankchituiis or Sankhachurnis are female ghosts of white complexion. 
They usually stand at the dead of night at the foot of trees, and look like 
sheets of white cloth. 

i88 



" The Brahman's wife had occasion to go to the tank, 
and as she went she brushed by a Sankchinni." 



XIV A GHOSTLY WIFE 

in-law. Her daughter-in-law, she knew, was 
constitutionally weak and languid, and took a long 
time to do the work of the house. But she had 
apparently become quite a different person. All 
of a sudden she had become very active. She 
now did the work of the house in an incredibly 
short time. Suspecting nothing, the old woman 
said nothing either to her son or to her daughter- 
in-law ; on the contrary, she inly rejoiced that her 
daughter-in-law had turned over a new leaf. But 
her surprise became every day greater and greater. 
The cooking of the household was done in much 
less time than before. When the mother-in-law 
wanted the daughter-in-law to bring anything 
from the next room, it was brought in much less 
time than was required in walking from one room 
to the other. The ghost, instead of going inside 
the next room, would stretch a long arm — for 
ghosts can lengthen or shorten any limb of their 
bodies — from the door and get the thing. One day 
the old woman observed the ghost doing this. 
She ordered her to bring a vessel from some 
distance, and the ghost unconsciously stretched her 
hand to several yards' distance, and brought it in a 
trice. The old woman was struck with wonder at 
the sight. She said nothing to her, but spoke to 
her son. Both mother and son began to watch 
the ghost more narrowly. One day the old 
woman knew that there was no fire in the house, 
and she knew also that her daughter-in-law had 
not gone out of doors to get it ; and yet, strange 
to say, the hearth in the kitchen-room was quite 

189 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xiv 

in a blaze. She went in, and, to her infinite 
surprise, found that her daughter-in-law was not 
using any fuel for cooking, but had thrust into the 
oven her foot, which was blazing brightly. The 
old mother told her son what she had seen, and 
they both concluded that the young woman in the 
house was not his real wife but a she-ghost. The 
son witnessed those very acts of the ghost which 
his mother had seen. An Ojlia ^ was therefore 
sent for. The exorcist came, and wanted in the 
first instance to ascertain whether the woman was 
a real woman or a ghost. For this purpose he 
lighted a piece of turmeric and set it below the 
nose of the supposed woman. Now this was an 
infallible test, as no ghost, whether male or female, 
can put up with the smell of burnt turmeric. 
The moment the lighted turmeric was taken near 
her, she screamed aloud and ran away from the 
room. It was now plain that she was either a 
ghost or a woman possessed by a ghost. The 
Vv^oman was caught hold of by main force and 
asked who she was. At first she refused to make 
any disclosures, on which the Ojha took up his 
slippers and began belabouring her with them. 
Then the ghost said with a strong nasal accent — 
for all ghosts speak through the nose — that she 
was a Sankchinni^ that she lived on a tree by the 
side of the tank, that she had seized the young 
Brahmani and put her in the hollow of her tree 
because one night she had touched her, and that if 
any person went to the hole the woman would be 

1 An exorcist, one who drives away ghosts from possessed persons. 

190 



XIV A GHOSTLY WIFE 

found. The woman was brought from the tree 
ahnost dead ; the ghost was again shoebeaten, after 
which process, on her declaring solemnly that she 
would not again do any harm to the Brahman and 
his family, she was released from the spell of the 
Ojha and sent away ; and the wife of the Brahman 
recovered slowly. After which the Brahman and 
his wife lived many years happily together and 
begat many sons and daughters. 

Thus my story endeth^ 

The Natiya-thorji withereth, etc. 



191 



XV 
THE STORY OF A BRAHMADAITYA^ 

Once on a time there lived a poor Brahman who 
had a wife. As he had no means of livehhood, 
he used every day to beg from door to door, and 
thus got some rice which they boiled and ate, 
together with some greens which they gleaned 
from the fields. After some time it chanced that 
the village changed its owner, and the Brahman 
bethought himself of asking some boon of the new 
laird. So one morning the Brahman went to the 
laird's house to pay him court. It so happened 
that at that time the laird was making inquiries of 
his servants about the village and its various parts. 
The laird was told that a certain banyan-tree in 
the outskirts of the village was haunted by a 
number of ghosts ; and that no man had ever the 
boldness to go to that tree at night. In bygone 
days some rash fellows went to the tree at night, 
but the necks of them all were wrung, and they all 
died. Since that time no man had ventured to go 
to the tree at night, though in the day some neat- 

' The ghost of a Brahman who dies unmarried. 
192 



XV THE STORY OF A BRAHMADAITYA 

herds took their cows to the spot. The new laird 
on hearing this said, that if any one would go at 
night to the tree, cut one of its branches and bring 
it to him, he would make him a present of a 
hundred bighas^ of rent-free land. None of the 
servants of the laird accepted the challenge, as they 
were sure they would be throttled by the ghosts. 
The Brahman, who was sitting there, thought 
within himself thus — " I am almost starved to 
death now, as I never get my bellyful. If I go 
to the tree at night and succeed in cutting off one 
of its branches I shall get one hundred bighas of 
rent-free land, and become independent for life. 
If the ghosts kill me, my case will not be worse, 
for to die of hunger is no better than to be killed 
by ghosts." He then offered to go to the tree and 
cut off a branch that night. The laird renewed 
his promise, and said to the Brahman that if he 
succeeded in bringing one of the branches of that 
haunted tree at night he would certainly give him 
one hundred bighas of rent-free land. 

In the course of the day when the people of 
the village heard of the laird's promise and of the 
Brahman's offer, they all pitied the poor man. 
They blamed him for his foolhardiness, as they 
were sure the ghosts would kill him, as they had 
killed so many before. His wife tried to dissuade 
him from the rash undertaking ; but in vain. He 
said he would die in any case ; but there was some 
chance of his escaping, and of thus becoming 
independent for life. Accordingly, one hour after 

' A bigha is about the third part of an acre. 

193 O 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xv 

sundown, the Brahman set out. He went to the 
outskirts of the village without the slightest fear 
as far as a certain vakula-trtQ (Mimusops Elengi), 
from which the haunted tree was about one rope 
distant. But under the vakula-x.vt^ the Brahman's 
heart misgave him. He began to quake with fear, 
and the heaving of his heart was like the upward 
and downward motion of the paddy-husking pedal. 
The njakula-Xx&t was the haunt of a Brahmadaitya, 
who, seeing the Brahman stop under the tree, 
spoke to him, and said, " Are you afraid. Brahman \ 
Tell me what you wish to do, and I'll help you. 
I am a Brahmadaitya." The Brahman replied, 
" O blessed spirit, I wish to go to yonder banyan- 
tree, and cut off one of its branches for the 
zemindar, who has promised to give me one 
hundred bighas of rent-free land for it. But my 
courage is failing me. I shall thank you very 
much for helping me." The Brahmadaitya an- 
swered, " Certainly FU help you, Brahman. Go 
on towards the tree, and Fll come with you." 
The Brahman, relying on the supernatural strength 
of his invisible patron, who is the object of the fear 
and reverence of common ghosts, fearlessly walked 
towards the haunted tree, on reaching which he 
began to cut a branch with the bill which was in 
his hand. But the moment the first stroke was 
given, a great many ghosts rushed towards the 
Brahman, who would have been torn to pieces but 
for the interference of the Brahmadaitya. The 
Brahmadaitya said in a commanding tone, " Ghosts, 

listen. This is a poor Brahman. He wishes to 

194 



" The moment the first stroke was given, a great many- 
ghosts rushed towards the Brahman." 




TSfW-^'Tar"^ 



XV THE STORY OF A BRAHMADAITYA 

get a branch of this tree which will be of great 
use to him. It is my will that you let him cut 
a branch." The ghosts, hearing the voice of the 
Brahmadaitya, replied, " Be it according to thy 
will, lord. At thy bidding we are ready to do 
anything. Let not the Brahman take the trouble 
of cutting ; we ourselves will cut a branch for 
him." So saying, in the twinkling of an eye, the 
ghosts put into the hands of the Brahman a branch 
of the tree, with which he went as fast as his legs 
could carry him to the house of the zemindar. 
The zemindar and his people were not a little 
surprised to see the branch ; but he said, " Well, 
I must see to-morrow whether this branch is a 
branch of the haunted tree or not ; if it be, you 
will get the promised reward." 

Next morning the zemindar himself went along 
with his servants to the haunted tree, and found 
to their infinite surprise that the branch in their 
hands was really a branch of that tree, as they saw 
the part from which it had been cut off. Being 
thus satisfied, the zemindar ordered a deed to be 
drawn up, by which he gave to the Brahman for 
ever one hundred bighas of rent-free land. Thus 
in one night the Brahman became a rich man. 

It so happened that the fields, of which 
the Brahman became the owner, were covered 
with ripe paddy, ready for the sickle. But the 
Brahman had not the means to reap the golden 
harvest. He had not a pice in his pocket for 
paying the wages of the reapers. What was the 
Brahman to do t He went to his spirit-friend the 

195 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xv 

Brahmadaitya, and said, " Oh, Brahmadaitya, I am 
in great distress. Through your kindness I got 
the rent-free land all covered with ripe paddy. 
But I have not the means of cutting the paddy, as 
I am a poor man. What shall I do ? " The 
kind Brahmadaitya ansv^ered, " Oh, Brahman, 
don't be troubled in your mind about the matter. 
I'll see to it that the paddy is not only cut, but 
that the corn is threshed and stored up in granaries, 
and the straw piled up in ricks. Only you do one 
thing. Borrow from men in the village one 
hundred sickles, and put them all at the foot of 
this tree at night. Prepare also the exact spot 
on which the grain and the straw are to be 
stored up." 

The joy of the Brahman knew no bounds. 
He easily got a hundred sickles, as the husbandmen 
of the village, knowing that he had become rich, 
readily lent him what he wanted. At sunset he 
took the hundred sickles and put them beneath the 
vakula-tvQ,Q. He also selected a spot of ground 
near his hut for his magazine of paddy and for his 
ricks of straw ; and washed the spot with a solution 
of cow -dung and water. After making these 
preparations he went to sleep. 

In the meantime, soon after nightfall, when 
the villagers had all retired to their houses, the 
Brahmadaitya called to him the ghosts of the 
haunted tree, who were one hundred in number, 
and said to them, " You must to-night do some 
work for the poor Brahman whom I am be- 
friending. The hundred bighas of land which he 

196 



XV THE STORY OF A BRAHMADAITYA 

has got from the zemindar are all covered with 

standing ripe corn. He has not the means to reap 

it. This night you all must do the work for him. 

Here are, you see, a hundred sickles ; let each of 

you take a sickle in hand and come to the field 

I shall show him. There are a hundred of you. 

Let each ghost cut the paddy of one bigha^ bring 

the sheaves on his back to the Brahman's house, 

thresh the corn, put the corn in one large granary, 

and pile up the straw in separate ricks. Now, 

don't lose time. You must do it all this very 

night." The hundred ghosts at once said to the 

Brahmadaitya, " We are ready to do whatever 

your lordship commands us." The Brahmadaitya 

showed the ghosts the Brahman's house, and the 

spot prepared for receiving the grain and the straw, 

and then took them to the Brahman's fields, all 

waving with the golden harvest. The ghosts at 

once fell to it. A ghost harvest-reaper is different 

from a human harvest-reaper. What a man cuts 

in a whole day, a ghost cuts in a minute. Mash, 

mash, mash, the sickles went round, and the long 

stalks of paddy fell to the ground. The reaping 

over, the ghosts took up the sheaves on their huge 

backs and carried them all to the Brahman's house. 

The ghosts then separated the grain from the 

straw, stored up the grain in one huge store-house, 

and piled up the straw in many a fantastic rick. 

It was full two hours before sunrise when the 

ghosts finished their work and retired to rest on 

their tree. No words can tell either the joy of 

the Brahman and his wife when early next morning 

197 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xv 

they opened the door of their hut, or the surprise of 
the villagers, when they saw the huge granary and 
the fantastic ricks of straw. The villagers did not 
understand it. They at once ascribed it to the gods. 
A few days after this the Brahman went to the 
vakula-X.vtt, and said to the Brahmadaitya," I have 
one more favour to ask of you, Brahmadaitya. As 
the gods have been very gracious to me, I wish to 
feed one thousand Brahmans ; and I shall thank 
you for providing me with the materials of the 
feast." " With the greatest pleasure," said the 
polite Brahmadaitya ; " I'll supply you with the 
requirements of a feast for a thousand Brahmans ; 
only show me the cellars in which the provisions 
are to be stored away." The Brahman improvised 
a store-room. The day before the feast the store- 
room was overflowing with provisions. There 
were one hundred jars o( g/ii (clarified butter), one 
hill of flour, one hundred jars of sugar, one 
hundred jars of milk, curds, and congealed milk, 
and the other thousand and one things required in 
a great Brahmanical feast. The next morning one 
hundred Brahman pastrycooks were employed ; 
the thousand Brahmans ate their fill ; but the host, 
the Brahman of the story, did not eat. He 
thought he would eat with the Brahmadaitya. 
But the Brahmadaitya, who was present there 
though unseen, told him that he could not gratify 
him on that point, as by befriending the Brahman 
the Brahmadaitya's allotted period had come to an 
end, and the pushpaka ^ chariot had been sent to 

1 The chariot of Kuvera, the Hindu god of riches. 

198 



XV THE STORY OF A BRAHMADAITYA 

him from heaven. The Brahmadaitya, being 
released from his ghostly life, was taken up into 
heaven ; and the Brahman lived happily for many 
years, begetting sons and grandsons. 

Here my story endeth^ 

The Natiya-thorn withereth^ etc. 



199 



XVI 

THE STORY OF A HIRAMAN^ 

There was a fowler who had a wife. The 
fowler's wife said to her husband one day, " My 
dear, I'll tell you the reason why we are always in 
want. It is because you sell every bird you catch 
by your rods, whereas if we sometimes eat some 
of the birds you catch, we are sure to have better 
luck. I propose therefore that whatever bird or 
birds you bag to-day we do not sell, but dress and 
eat." The fowler agreed to his wife's proposal, 
and went out a-bird-catching. He went about 
from wood to wood with his limed rods, accom- 
panied by his wife, but in vain. Somehow or 
other they did not succeed in catching any bird till 
near sundown. But just as they were returning 
homewards they caught a beautiful hiraman. The 
fowler's wife, taking the bird in her hand and 
feeling it all over, said, " What a small bird this 
is ! how much meat can it have ? There is no 
use in killing it." The hiraman said, " Mother, 

1 " Hiraman (from harit, green, and mani, a gem), the name of a beautiful 
species of parrot, a native of the Molucca Islands {Psittacus sinensis)." — 
Carey's Dictionary of the Bengalee Language, vol. ii. part iii. p. 1537. 

200 



XVI THE STORY OF A HIRAMAN 

do not kill me, but take me to the king, and you 
will get a large sum of money by selling me." 
The fowler and his wife were greatly taken aback 
on hearing the bird speak, and they asked the bird 
what price they should set upon it. The hiraman 
answered, " Leave that to me ; take me to the 
king and offer me for sale ; and when the king 
asks my price, say, ' The bird will tell its own 
price,' and then I'll mention a large sum." The 
fowler accordingly went the next day to the king's 
palace, and offered the bird for sale. The king, 
delighted with the beauty of the bird, asked the 
fowler what he would take for it. The fowler 
said, " O great king, the bird will tell its own 
price." " What ! can the bird speak .? " asked the 
king. " Yes, my lord ; be pleased to ask the bird 
its price," replied the fowler. The king, half in 
jest and half in seriousness, said, " Well, hiraman, 
what is your price ? " The hiraman answered, 
" Please your majesty, my price is ten thousand 
rupees. Do not think that the price is too high. 
Count out the money for the fowler, for I'll be 
of the greatest service to your majesty." " What 
service can you be of to me, hiraman ? " asked the 
king. " Your majesty will see that in due time," 
replied the hiraman. The king, surprised beyond 
measure at hearing the hiraman talk, and talk so 
sensibly, took the bird, and ordered his treasurer to 
tell down the sum of ten thousand rupees to the 
fowler. 

The king had six queens, but he was so taken 
up with the bird that he almost forgot that they 



201 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xvi 

lived ; at any rate, his days and nights were spent 
in the company, not of the queens, but of the bird. 
The hiraman not only replied intelligently to 
every question the king put, but it recited to him 
the names of the three hundred and thirty millions 
of the gods of the Hindu pantheon, the hearing of 
which is always regarded as an act of piety. The 
queens felt that they were neglected by the king, 
became jealous of the bird, and determined to kill 
it. It was long before they got an opportunity, 
as the bird was the king's inseparable companion. 
One day the king went out a-hunting, and he was 
to be away from the palace for two days. The 
six queens determined to avail themselves of the 
opportunity and put an end to the life of the bird. 
They said to one another, " Let us go and ask the 
bird which of us is the ugliest in his estimation, 
and she whom he pronounces the ugliest shall 
strangle the bird." Thus resolved, they all went 
into the room where the bird was ; but before the 
queens could put any questions the bird so sweetly 
and so piously recited the names of the gods and 
goddesses, that the hearts of them all were melted 
into tenderness, and they came away without 
accomplishing their purpose. The following day, 
however, their evil genius returned, and they 
called themselves a thousand fools for having been 
diverted from their purpose. They therefore 
determined to steel their hearts against all pity, 
and to kill the bird without delay. They all 
went into the room, and said to the bird, " O 
hiraman, you are a very wise bird, we hear, and 

202 



XVI THE STORY OF A HIRAMAN 

your judgments are all right ; will you please tell 
us which of us is the handsomest and which the 
ugliest ? " The bird, knowing the evil design of 
the queens, said to them, " How can I answer 
your questions remaining in this cage ? In order 
to pronounce a correct judgment I must look 
minutely on every limb of you all, both in front 
and behind. If you wish to know my opinion 
you must set me free." The women were at first 
afraid of setting the bird free lest it should fly 
away ; but on second thoughts they set it free 
after shutting all the doors and windows of the 
room. The bird, on examining the room, saw 
that it had a water-passage through which it was 
possible to escape. When the question was 
repeated several times by the queens, the bird 
said, " The beauty of not one of you can be 
compared to the beauty of the little toe of the 
lady that lives beyond the seven oceans and the 
thirteen rivers." The queens, on hearing their 
beauty spoken of in such slighting terms, became 
exceedingly furious, and rushed towards the bird 
to tear it in pieces ; but before they could get at 
it, it escaped through the water -passage, and 
took shelter in a wood-cutter's hut which was 
hard by. 

The next day the king returned home from 
hunting, and not finding the hiraman on its perch 
became mad with grief. He asked the queens, 
and they told him that they knew nothing about it. 
The king wept day and night for the bird, as he 

loved it much. His ministers became afraid lest 

203 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xvi 

his reason should give way, for he used every hour 
of the day to weep, saying, " O my hiraman ! O my 
hiraman ! where art thou gone ? " Proclamation 
was made by beat of drum throughout the kingdom 
to the effect that if any person could produce before 
the king his pet hiraman he would be rewarded 
with ten thousand rupees. The wood - cutter, 
rejoiced at the idea of becoming independent for 
life, produced the precious bird and obtained the 
reward. The king, on hearing from the parrot 
that the queens had attempted to kill it, became 
mad with rage. He ordered them to be driven 
away from the palace and put in a desert place 
without food. The king's order was obeyed, and 
it was rumoured after a few days that the poor 
queens were all devoured by wild beasts. 

After some time the king said to the parrot, 
" Hiraman, you said to the queens that the beauty 
of none of them could be compared to the beauty 
of even the little toe of the lady who lives on the 
other side of the seven oceans and thirteen rivers. 
Do you know of any means by which I can get at 
that lady .? " 

Hiraman. Of course I do. I can take your 
majesty to the door of the palace in which that 
lady of peerless beauty lives ; and if your majesty 
will abide by my counsel, I will undertake to put 
that lady into your arms. 

King, I will do whatever you tell me. What 
do you wish me to do ? 

Hiraman. What is required is a pakshiraj.^ If 

1 Winged horse, literally, the king of birds. 
204 



XVI THE STORY OF A HIRAMAN 

you can procure a horse of that species, you can 
ride upon it, and in no time we shall cross the 
seven oceans and thirteen rivers, and stand at the 
door of the lady's palace. 

King. I have, as you know, a large stud of 
horses ; we can now go and see if there are any 
pakshirajes amongst them. 

The king and the hiraman went to the royal 
stables and examined all the horses. The hiraman 
passed by all the fine-looking horses and those of 
high mettle, and alighted upon a wretched-looking 
lean pony, and said, " Here is the horse I want. 
It is a horse of the genuine pakshiraj breed, but it 
must be fed full six months with the finest grain 
before it can answer our purpose." The king 
accordingly put that pony in a stable by itself and 
himself saw every day that it was fed with the 
finest grain that could be got in the kingdom. 
The pony rapidly improved in appearance, and at 
the end of six months the hiraman pronounced it 
fit for service. The parrot then told the king to 
order the royal silversmith to make some khais ^ of 
silver. A large quantity of silver khais was made 
in a short time. When about to start on their 
aerial journey the hiraman said to the king, " I 
have one request to make. Please whip the horse 
only once at starting. If you whip him more than 
once, we shall not be able to reach the palace, but 
stick mid-way. And when we return homewards 
after capturing the lady, you are also to whip the 
horse only once ; if you whip him more than once, 

^ Kha't is fried paddy. 
205 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xvi 

we shall come only half the way and remain there." 

The king then got upon the pakshiraj with the 

hiraman and the silver khais, and gently whipped 

the animal once. The horse shot through the air 

with the speed of lightning, passed over many 

countries, kingdoms, and empires, crossed the oceans 

and thirteen rivers, and alighted in the evening at 

the gate of a beautiful palace. 

Now, near the palace-gate there stood a lofty 

tree. The hiraman told the king to put the horse 

in the stable hard by, and then to climb into the 

tree and remain there concealed. The hiraman 

took the silver khais^ and with its beak began 

dropping khai after khai from the foot of the tree, 

all through the corridors and passages, up to the 

door of the bedchamber of the lady of peerless 

beauty. After doing this, the hiraman perched 

upon the tree where the king was concealed. 

Some hours after midnight, the maid-servant of the 

lady, who slept in the same room with her, wishing 

to come out, opened the door and noticed the silver 

khais lying there. She took up a few of them, and 

not knowing what they were, showed them to her 

lady. The lady, admiring the little silver bullets, 

and wondering how they could have got there, 

came out of her room and began picking them up. 

She saw a regular stream of them apparently issuing 

from near the door of her room, and proceeding 

she knew not how far. She went on picking up 

in a basket the bright, shining khais all through the 

corridors and passages, till she came to the foot of 

the tree. No sooner did the lady of peerless beauty 

206 



XVI THE STORY OF A HIRAMAN 

come to the foot of the tree than the king, agreeably 
to instructions previously given to him by the 
hiraman, alighted from the tree and caught hold 
of the lady. In a moment she was put upon the 
horse along with himself At that moment the 
hiraman sat upon the shoulder of the king, the 
king gently whipped the horse once, and they all 
were whirled through the air with the speed of 
lightning. The king, wishing to reach home soon 
with the precious prize, and forgetful of the 
instructions of the hiraman, whipped the horse 
again ; on which the horse at once alighted on the 
outskirts of what seemed a dense forest. " What 
have you done, O king .? " shouted out the hiraman. 
" Did I not tell you not to whip the horse more 
than once ? You have whipped him twice, and 
we are done for. We may meet with our death 
here." But the thing was done, and it could not 
be helped. The pakshiraj became powerless ; and 
the party could not proceed homewards. They 
dismounted ; but they could not see anywhere the 
habitations of men. They ate some fruits and roots, 
and slept that night there upon the ground. 

Next morning it so chanced that the king of 
that country came to that forest to hunt. As he 
was pursuing a stag, whom he had pierced with 
an arrow, he came across the king and the lady of 
peerless beauty. Struck with the matchless beauty 
of the lady, he wished to seize her. He whistled, 
and in a moment his attendants flocked around 
him. The lady was made a captive, and her lover, 
who had brought her from her house on the other 

207 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xvi 

side of the seven oceans and thirteen rivers, was 
not put to death, but his eyes were put out, and 
he was left alone in the forest — alone, and yet not 
alone, for the good hiraman was with him. 

The lady of peerless beauty was taken into the 
king's palace, as well as the pony of her lover. 
The lady said to the king that he must not come 
near her for six months, in consequence of a vow 
which she had taken, and which would be 
completed in that period of time. She mentioned 
six months, as that period would be necessary for 
recruiting the constitution of the pakshiraj. As 
the lady professed to engage every day in religious 
ceremonies, in consequence of her vow, a separate 
house was assigned to her, where she took the 
pakshiraj and fed him with the choicest grain. 
But everything would be fruitless if the lady did 
not meet the hiraman. But how is she to get 
a sight of that bird ? She adopted the following 
expedient. She ordered her servants to scatter on 
the roof of her house heaps of paddy, grain, and all 
sorts of pulse for the refreshment of birds. The 
consequence was, that thousands of the feathery 
race came to the roof to partake of the abundant 
feast. The lady was every day on the look out for 
her hiraman. The hiraman, meanwhile, was in 
great distress in the forest. He had to take care 
not only of himself, but of the now blinded king. 
He plucked some ripe fruits in the forest, and gave 
them to the king to eat, and he ate of them him- 
self. This was the manner of hiraman's life. The 

other birds of the forest spoke thus to the parrot — 

208 



XVI THE STORY OF A HIRAMAN 

" O hiraman, you have a miserable life of it in 
this forest. Why don't you come with us to an 
abundant feast provided for us by a pious lady, v^ho 
scatters many maunds of pulse on the roof of her 
house for the benefit of our race ? We go there 
early in the morning and return in the evening, 
eating our fill along with thousands of other birds." 
The hiraman resolved to accompany them next 
morning, shrewdly suspecting more in the lady's 
charity to birds than the other birds thought there 
was in it. The hiraman saw the lady, and had a 
long chat with her about the health of the blinded 
king, the means of curing his blindness, and about 
her escape. The plan adopted was as follows : 
The pony would be ready for aerial flight in a 
short time — for a great part of the six months had 
already elapsed ; and the king's blindness could be 
cured if the hiraman could procure from the chicks 
of the bihangama and bihangami birds, who had 
their nest on the tree at the gate of the lady's 
palace beyond the seven oceans and thirteen rivers, 
a quantity of their ordure, fresh and hot, and apply 
it to the eyeballs of the blinded king. The 
following morning the hiraman started on his 
errand of mercy, remained at night on the tree at 
the gate of the palace beyond the seven oceans and 
thirteen rivers, and early the next morning waited 
below the nest of the birds with a leaf on his beak, 
into which dropped the ordure of the chicks. 
That moment the hiraman flew across the oceans 
and rivers, came to the forest, and applied the 
precious balm to the sightless sockets of the king. 

209 p 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xvi 

The king opened his eyes and saw. In a few days 
the pakshiraj was in proper trim. The lady escaped 
to the forest and took the king up ; and the lady, 
king, and hiraman all reached the king's capital 
safe and sound. The king and the lady were 
united together in wedlock. They lived many 
years together happily, and begat sons and 
daughters ; and the beautiful hiraman was always 
with them reciting the names of the three hundred 
and thirty millions of gods. 

Here my story endeth^ 

The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc. 



2T0 



"The lady, king, and hiraman all reached the king's 
capital safe and sound." 



XVII 

THE ORIGIN OF RUBIES 

There was a certain king who died leaving four 
sons behind him with his queen. The queen was 
passionately fond of the youngest of the princes. 
She gave him the best robes, the best horses, 
the best food, and the best furniture. The other 
three princes became exceedingly jealous of their 
youngest brother, and conspiring against him and 
their mother, made them live in a separate house, 
and took possession of the estate. Owing to over- 
indulgence, the youngest prince had become very 
wilful. He never listened to any one, not even to 
his mother, but had his own way in everything. 
One day he went with his mother to bathe in the 
river. A large boat was riding there at anchor. 
None of the boatmen were in it. The prince 
went into the boat, and told his mother to come 
into it. His mother besought him to get down 
from the boat, as it did not belong to him. But 
the prince said, " No, mother, I am not coming 
down ; I mean to go on a voyage, and if you wish 
to come with me, then delay not but come up at 

211 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xvii 

once, or I shall be off in a trice." The queen 
besought the prince to do no such thing, but to 
come down instantly. But the prince gave no 
heed to what she said, and began to take up 
the anchor. The queen went up into the boat 
in great haste ; and the moment she was on board 
the boat started, and falling into the current 
passed on swiftly like an arrow. The boat went 
on and on till it reached the sea. After it had 
gone many furlongs into the open sea, the boat 
came near a whirlpool, where the prince saw a 
great many rubies of monstrous size floating on the 
waters. Such large rubies no one had ever seen, 
each being in value equal to the wealth of seven 
kings. The prince caught hold of half a dozen of 
those rubies, and put them on board. His mother 
said, " Darling, don't take up those red balls ; 
they must belong to somebody who has been ship- 
wrecked, and we may be taken up as thieves." 
At the repeated entreaties of his mother the prince 
threw them into the sea, keeping only one tied up 
in his clothes. The boat then drifted towards the 
coast, and the queen and the prince arrived at a 
certain port where they landed. 

The port where they landed was not a small 
place ; it was a large city, the capital of a great 
king. Not far from the place, the queen and her 
son hired a hut where they lived. As the prince 
was yet a boy, he was fond of playing at marbles. 
When the children of the king came out to play 
on a lawn before the palace, our young prince 
joined them. He had no marbles, but he played 

212 



XVII 



THE ORIGIN OF RUBIES 



with the ruby which he had in his possession. 
The ruby was so hard that it broke every taw 
against which it struck. The daughter of the 
ktng, who used to watch the games from a balcony 
of the palace, was astonished to see a brilliant red 
ball in the hand of the strange lad, and wanted to 
take possession of it. She told her father that a 
boy of the street had an uncommonly bright stone 
in his possession which she must have, or else she 
would starve herself to death. The king ordered 
his servants to bring to him the lad with the 
precious stone. When the boy was brought, the 
king wondered at the largeness and brilliancy of 
the ruby. He had never seen anything like it. 
He doubted whether any king of any country in 
the world possessed so great a treasure. He asked 
the lad where he had got it. The lad replied that 
he got it from the sea. The king offered a thousand 
rupees for the ruby, and the lad not knowing its 
value readily parted with it for that sum. He 
went with the money to his mother, who was not 
a little frightened, thinking that her son had stolen 
the money from some rich man's house. She 
became quiet, however, on being assured that the 
money was given to him by the king in exchange 
for the red ball which he had picked up in 

the sea. 

The king's daughter, on getting the ruby, put 
it in her hair, and, standing before her pet parrot, 
said to the bird, " Oh, my darling parrot, don't I 
look very beautiful with this ruby in my hair ? " 
The parrot replied, " Beautiful ! you look quite 

213 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xvii 

hideous with it ! What princess ever puts only 

one ruby in her hair ? It would be somewhat 

feasible if you had two at least." Stung with 

shame at the reproach cast in her teeth by the 

parrot, the princess went into the grief-chamber of 

the palace, and would neither eat nor drink. The 

king was not a little concerned when he heard that 

his daughter had gone into the grief-chamber. 

He went to her, and asked her the cause of her 

grief. The princess told the king what her pet 

parrot had said, and added, " Father, if you do not 

procure for me another ruby like this, Fll put an 

end to my life by mine own hands." The king 

was overwhelmed with grief. Where was he to get 

another ruby like it ? He doubted whether another 

like it could be found in the whole world. He 

ordered the lad who had sold the ruby to be 

brought into his presence. " Have you, young 

man," asked the king, " another ruby like the one 

you sold me ? " The lad replied, " No, I have not 

got one. Why, do you want another .? I can 

give you lots, if you wish to have them. They are 

to be found in a whirlpool in the sea, far, far 

away. I can go and fetch some for you." Amazed 

at the lad's reply, the king offered rich rewards for 

procuring only another ruby of the same sort. 

The lad went home and said to his mother that 

he must go to sea again to fetch some rubies for 

the king. The woman was quite frightened at the 

idea, and begged him not to go. But the lad 

was resolved on going, and nothing could prevent 

him from carrying out his purpose. He accordingly 

214 



"'What princess ever puts only one ruby in her hair ? 



XVII THE ORIGIN OF RUBIES 

went alone on board that same vessel which had 
brought him and his mother, and set sail. He 
reached the whirlpool, from near which he had 
formerly picked up the rubies. This time, how- 
ever, he determined to go to the exact spot whence 
the rubies were coming out. He went to the 
centre of the whirlpool, where he saw a gap 
reaching to the bottom of the ocean. He dived 
into it, leaving his boat to wheel round the 
whirlpool. When he reached the bottom of the 
ocean he saw there a beautiful palace. He went 
inside. In the central room of the palace there 
was the god Siva, with his eyes closed, and absorbed 
apparently in intense meditation. A few feet above 
Siva's head was a platform, on which lay a young 
lady of exquisite beauty. The prince went to the 
platform and saw that the head of the lady was 
separated from her body. Horrified at the sight, he 
did not know what to make of it. He saw a stream 
of blood trickling from the severed head, falling 
upon the matted head of Siva, and running into the 
ocean in the form of rubies. After a little two small 
rods, one of silver and one of gold, which were lying 
near the head of the lady, attracted his eyes. As 
he took up the rods in his hands, the golden rod 
accidentally fell upon the head, on which the head 
immediately joined itself to the body, and the lady 
got up. Astonished at the sight of a human 
being, the lady asked the prince who he was and 
how he had got there. After hearing the story of 
the prince's adventures, the lady said, " Unhappy 

young man, depart instantly from this place ; for 

215 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xvii 

when Siva finishes his meditations he will turn you 
to ashes by a single glance of his eyes." The 
young man, however, would not go except in her 
company, as he was over head and ears in love with 
the beautiful lady. At last they both contrived 
to run away from the palace, and coming up to the 
surface of the ocean they climbed into the boat 
near the centre of the whirlpool, and sailed away 
towards land, having previously laden the vessel 
with a cargo of rubies. The wonder of the prince's 
mother at seeing the beautiful damsel may be well 
imagined. Early next morning the prince sent a 
basin full of big rubies, through a servant. The 
king was astonished beyond measure. His daughter, 
on getting the rubies, resolved on marrying the 
wonderful lad who had made a present of them to 
her. Though the prince had a wife, whom he 
had brought up from the depths of the ocean, 
he consented to have a second wife. They were 
accordingly married, and lived happily for years, 
begetting sons and daughters. 

Here my story endeth^ 

The Natiya-thorn wither eth^ etc. 



216 



" Coming up to the surface they climbed into the boat. 



XVIII 
THE MATCH-MAKING JACKAL 

Once on a time there lived a weaver, whose 
ancestors were very rich, but whose father had 
wasted the property which he had inherited in 
riotous living. He was born in a palace-like house, 
but he now lived in a miserable hut. He had no 
one in the world, his parents and all his relatives 
having died. Hard by the hut was the lair of a 
jackal. The jackal, remembering the wealth and 
grandeur of the weaver's forefathers, had com- 
passion on him, and one day coming to him, said, 
" Friend weaver, I see what a wretched life you 
are leading. I have a good mind to improve your 
condition. I'll try and marry you to the daughter 
of the king of this country." " I become the 
king's son-in-law ! " replied the weaver ; " that 
will take place only when the sun rises in the 
west." " You doubt my power ? " rejoined the 
jackal ; " you will see, I'll bring it about." 

The next morning the jackal started for the 
king's city, which was many miles off. On the 
way he entered a plantation of the Piper betel 

217 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xviii 

plant, and plucked a large quantity of its leaves. 
He reached the capital, and contrived to get inside 
the palace. On the premises of the palace was a 
tank in w^hich the ladies of the king's household 
performed their morning and afternoon ablutions. 
At the entrance of that tank the jackal laid himself 
down. The daughter of the king happened to 
come just at the time to bathe, accom.panied by 
her maids. The princess was not a little struck at 
seeing the jackal lying down at the entrance. She 
told her maids to drive the jackal away. The 
jackal rose as if from sleep, and instead of running 
away, opened his bundle of betel-leaves, put some 
into his mouth, and began chewing them. The 
princess and her maids were not a little astonished 
at the sight. They said among themselves, 
" What an uncommon jackal is this ! From what 
country can he have come ? A jackal chewing 
betel-leaves ! why thousands of men and women 
of this city cannot indulge in that luxury. He 
must have come from a wealthy land." The 
princess asked the jackal, " Sivalu ! ^ from what 
country do you come ? It must be a very 
prosperous country where the jackals chew betel- 
leaves. Do other animals in your country chew 
betel-leaves ? " " Dearest princess," replied the 
jackal, " I come from a land flowing with milk and 
honey. Betel-leaves are as plentiful in my country 
as the grass in your fields. All animals in my 
country — cows, sheep, dogs — chew betel-leaves. 
We want no good thing." " Happy is the 

1 A name for a jackal, not unlike Reynard in Europe. 

2l8 



"The jackal . . . opened his bundle of betel-leaves, put 
some into his mouth, and began chewing them." 




o 

u 

I 



XVIII THE MATCH-MAKING JACKAL 

country," said the princess, " where there is such 
plenty, and thrice happy the king who rules in 
it ! " " As for our king," said the jackal, " he is the 
richest king in the world. His palace is like the 
heaven of Indra. I have seen your palace here ; 
it is a miserable hut compared to the palace of our 
king." The princess, whose curiosity was excited 
to the utmost pitch, hastily went through her 
bath, and going to the apartments of the queen- 
mother, told her of the wonderful jackal lying at 
the entrance of the tank. Her curiosity being 
excited, the jackal was sent for. When the jackal 
stood in the presence of the queen, he began 
munching the betel-leaves. "You come," said 
the queen, "from a very rich country. Is your 
king married ? " " Please your majesty, our king 
is not married. Princesses from distant parts of 
the world tried to get married to him, but he 
rejected them all. Happy will that princess be 
whom our king condescends to marry ! " " Don't 
you think, Sivalu," asked the queen, "that my 
daughter is as beautiful as a Peri, and that she is 
fit to be the wife of the proudest king in the 
world ? " "I quite think," said the jackal, " that 
the princess is exceedingly handsome ; indeed, she 
is the handsomest princess I have ever seen ; but I 
don't know whether our king will have a liking 
for her." " Liking for my daughter ! " said the 
queen, " you have only to paint her to him as she 
is, and he is sure to turn mad with love. To be 
serious, Sivalu, 1 am anxious to get my daughter 
married. Many princes have sought her hand, 

219 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xviii 

but I am unwilling to give her to any of them, as 
they are not the sons of great kings. But your 
king seems to be a great king. I can have no 
objection to making him my son-in-law." The 
queen sent word to the king, requesting him to 
come and see the jackal. The king came and saw 
the jackal, heard him describe the wealth and 
pomp of the king of his country, and expressed 
himself not unwilling to give away his daughter 
in marriage to him. 

The jackal after this returned to the weaver 
and said to him, " O lord of the loom, you are the 
luckiest man in the world ; it is all settled ; you 
are to become the son-in-law of a great king. I 
have told them that you are yourself a great king, 
and you must behave yourself as one. You must 
do just as I instruct you, otherwise your fortune 
will not only not be made, but both you and I 
will be put to death." " I'll do just as you bid 
me," said the weaver. The shrewd jackal drew 
in his own mind a plan of the method of procedure 
he should adopt, and after a few days went back to 
the palace of the king in the same manner in 
which he had gone before, that is to say, chewing 
betel-leaves and lying down at the entrance of the 
tank on the premises of the palace. The king 
and queen were glad to see him, and eagerly asked 
him as to the success of his mission. The jackal 
said, " In order to relieve your minds I may tell 
you at once that my mission has been so far 
successful. If you only knew the infinite trouble I 
have had in persuading his Majesty, my sovereign, 

220 



XVIII THE MATCH-MAKING JACKAL 

to make up his mind to marry your daughter, you 
would give me no end of thanks. For a long time 
he would not hear of it, but gradually I brought 
him round. You have now only to fix an 
auspicious day for the celebration of the solemn 
rite. There is one bit of advice, however, which 
I, as your friend, would give you. It is this. 
My master is so great a king that if he were to 
come to you in state, attended by all his followers, 
his horses and his elephants, you would find it 
impossible to accommodate them all in your 
palace or in your city. I would therefore propose 
that our king should come to your city, not in 
state, but in a private manner ; and that you send 
to the outskirts of your city your own elephants, 
horses, and conveyances, to bring him and only a 
few of his followers to your palace." "Many 
thanks, wise Sivalu, for this advice. I could not 
possibly make accommodation in my city for the 
followers of so great a king as your master is. I 
should be very glad if he did not come in state ; 
and trust you will use your influence to persuade 
him to come in a private manner ; for I should be 
ruined if he came in state." The jackal then 
gravely said, " I will do my best in the matter," 
and then returned to his own village, after the 
royal astrologer had fixed an auspicious day for the 

wedding. . 

On his return the jackal busied himself with 
making preparations for the great ceremony. As 
the weaver was clad in tatters, he told him to go 
to the washermen of the village and borrow from 



221 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xviii 

them a suit of clothes. As for himself, he went 
to the king of his race, and told him that on a 
certain day he would like one thousand jackals to 
accompany him to a certain place. He went to 
the king of crows, and begged that his corvine 
majesty would be pleased to allow one thousand 
of his black subjects to accompany him on a certain 
day to a certain place. He preferred a similar 
petition to the king of paddy-birds. 

At last the great day arrived. The weaver 
arrayed himself in the clothes which he had 
borrowed from the village washermen. The jackal 
made his appearance, accompanied by a train of a 
thousand jackals, a thousand crows, and a thousand 
paddy-birds. The nuptial procession started on 
their journey, and towards sundown arrived within 
two miles of the king's palace. There the jackal 
told his friends, the thousand jackals, to set up a 
loud howl ; at his bidding the thousand crows 
cawed their loudest ; while the hoarse screechings 
of the thousand paddy-birds furnished a suitable 
accompaniment. The effect may be imagined. 
They all together made a noise the like of which 
had never been heard since the world began. 
While this unearthly noise was going on, the jackal 
himself hastened to the palace, and asked the king 
whether he thought he would be able to accom- 
modate the wedding-party, which was about two 
miles distant, and whose noise was at that moment 
sounding in his ears. The king said " Impossible, 
Sivalu ; from the sound of the procession I infer 
there must be at least one hundred thousand souls. 

222 



XVIII THE MATCH-MAKING JACKAL 

How is it possible to accommodate so many guests ? 
Please, so arrange that the bridegroom only will 
come to my house." "Very well," said the jackal ; 
" I told you at the beginning that you would not 
be able to accommodate all the attendants of my 
august master. I'll do as you wish. My master 
will alone come in undress. Send a horse for the 
purpose." The jackal, accompanied by a horse 
and groom, came to the place where his friend the 
weaver was, thanked the thousand jackals, the 
thousand crows, and the thousand paddy-birds, for 
their valuable services, and told them all to go 
away, while he himself, and the weaver on horse- 
back, wended their way to the king's palace. The 
bridal party, waiting in the palace, were greatly 
disappointed at the personal appearance of the 
weaver ; but the jackal told them that his master 
had purposely put on a mean dress, as his would-be 
father-in-law declared himself unable to accom- 
modate the bridegroom and his attendants coming 
in state. The royal priests now began the inter- 
esting ceremony, and the nuptial knot was tied for 
ever. The bridegroom seldom opened his lips, 
agreeably to the instructions of the jackal, who v/as 
afraid lest his speech should betray him. At night 
when he was lying in bed he began to count the 
beams and rafters of the room, and said audibly, 
" This beam will make a first-rate loom, that other 
a capital beam, and that yonder an excellent sley." 
The princess, his bride, was not a little astonished. 
She began to think in her mind, " Is the man, to 

whom they have tied me, a king or a weaver .' 

223 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xviii 

I am afraid he is the latter ; otherwise why should 
he be talking of weaver's loom, beam, and sley ? 
Ah, me ! is this what the fates keep in store for 
me ? " In the morning the princess related to the 
queen-mother the weaver's soliloquy. The king 
and queen, not a little surprised at this recital, took 
the jackal to task about it. The ready-witted 
jackal at once said, " Your Majesty need not be 
surprised at my august master's soliloquy. His 
palace is surrounded by a population of seven 
hundred families of the best weavers in the world, 
to whom he has given rent-free lands, and whose 
welfare he continually seeks. It must have been 
in one of his philanthropic moods that he uttered 
the soliloquy which has taken your Majesty by 
surprise." The jackal, however, now felt that it 
was high time for himself and the weaver to 
decamp with the princess, since the proverbial 
simplicity of his friend of the loom might any 
moment involve him in danger. The jackal there- 
fore represented to the king, that weighty affairs 
of state would not permit his august master to 
spend another day in the palace ; that he should 
start for his kingdom that very day with his bride ; 
and his master was resolved to travel incognito on 
foot, only the princess, now the queen, should leave 
the city in a palki. After a great deal of yea and 
nay, the king and queen at last consented to the 
proposal. The party came to the outskirts of the 
weaver's village ; the palki bearers were sent away ; 
and the princess, who asked where her husband's 

palace was, was made to walk on foot. The 

224 



XVIII THE MATCH-MAKING JACKAL 

weaver's hut was soon reached, and the jackal, 
addressing the princess, said, " This, madam, is 
your husband's palace." The princess began to 
beat her forehead with the palms of her hands in 
sheer despair. " Ah, me ! is this the husband 
whom Prajapati ^ intended for me ? Death would 
have been a thousand times better." 

As there was nothing for it, the princess soon 
got reconciled to her fate. She, however, deter- 
mined to make her husband rich, especially as she 
knew the secret of becoming rich. One day she 
told her husband to get for her a pice-worth of 
flour. She put a little water in the flour, and 
smeared her body with the paste. When the paste 
dried on her body, she began wiping the paste 
with her fingers ; and as the paste fell in small 
balls from her body, it got turned into gold. She 
repeated this process every day for some time, and 
thus got an immense quantity of gold. She soon 
became mistress of more gold than is to be found 
in the cofi^ers of any king. With this gold she 
employed a whole army of masons, carpenters and 
architects, who in no time built one of the finest 
palaces in the world. Seven hundred families of 
weavers were sought for and settled round about 
the palace. After this she wrote a letter to her 
father to say that she was sorry he had not favoured 
her with a visit since the day of her marriage, and 
that she would be delighted if he now came to 
see her and her husband. The king agreed to 
come, and a day was fixed. The princess made 

^ The god who presides over marriages. 

225 Q 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xviii 

great preparations against the day of her father's 
arrival. Hospitals were established in several parts 
of the town for diseased, sick, and infirm animals. 
The beasts in thousands were made to chew betel- 
leaves on the wayside. The streets were covered 
with Cashmere shawls for her father and his 
attendants to walk on. There was no end of the 
display of wealth and grandeur. The king and 
queen arrived in state, and were infinitely delighted 
at the apparently boundless riches of their son-in- 
law. The jackal now appeared on the scene, and 
saluting the king and queen, said — " Did I not 
tell you ? " 

Here my story endeth. 

The Natiya-thorn withe reth^ etc. 



226 



XIX 

THE BOY WITH THE MOON ON HIS 

FOREHEAD 

There was a certain king who had six queens, 
none of whom bore children. Physicians, holy 
sages, mendicants, were consulted, countless drugs 
were had recourse to, but all to no purpose. The 
king was disconsolate. His ministers told him to 
marry a seventh wife ; and he was accordingly on 
the look out. 

In the royal city there lived a poor old woman 
who used to pick up cow-dung from the fields, 
make it into cakes, dry them in the sun, and sell 
them in the market for fuel. This was her only 
means of subsistence. This old woman had a 
daughter exquisitely beautiful. Her beauty excited 
the admiration of every one that saw her ; and it 
was solely in consequence of her surpassing beauty 
that three young ladies, far above her in rank and 
station, contracted friendship with her. Those 
three young ladies were the daughter of the king's 
minister, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, and 
the daughter of the royal priest. These three 

227 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xix 

young ladies, together with the daughter of the 

poor old woman, were one day bathing in a tank 

not far from the palace. As they were performing 

their ablutions, each dwelt on her own good 

qualities. " Look here, sister," said the minister's 

daughter, addressing the merchant's daughter, " the 

man that marries me will be a happy man, for he 

will not have to buy clothes for me. The cloth 

which I once put on never gets soiled, never gets 

old, never tears." The merchant's daughter said, 

" And my husband too will be a happy man, for 

the fuel which I use in cooking never gets turned 

into ashes. The same fuel serves from day to day, 

from year to year." " And my husband will also 

become a happy man," said the daughter of the 

royal chaplain, " for the rice which I cook one day 

never gets finished, and when we have all eaten, 

the same quantity which was first cooked remains 

always in the pot." The daughter of the poor old 

woman said in her turn, " And the man that 

marries me will also be happy, for I shall give 

birth to twin children, a son and a daughter. The 

daughter will be divinely fair, and the son will 

have the moon on his forehead and stars on the 

palms of his hands." 

The above conversation was overheard by the 

king, who, as he was on the look out for a seventh 

queen, used to skulk about in places where women 

met together. The king thus thought in his 

mind — " I don't care a straw for the girl whose 

clothes never tear and never get old ; neither do I 

care for the other girl whose fuel is never con- 

228 



XIX BOY WITH MOON ON FOREHEAD 

sumed ; nor for the third girl whose rice never fails 
in the pot. But the fourth girl is quite charm- 
ing ! She will give birth to twin children, a son 
and a daughter ; the daughter will be divinely fair, 
and the son will have the moon on his forehead 
and stars on the palms of his hands. That is the 
girl I want. I'll make her my wife." 

On making inquiries on the same day, the king 
found that the fourth girl was the daughter of a 
poor old woman who picked up cow-dung from 
the fields ; but though there was thus an infinite 
disparity in rank, he determined to marry her. On 
the very same day he sent for the poor old woman. 
She, poor thing, was quite frightened when she 
saw a messenger of the king standing at the door 
of her hut. She thought that the king had sent 
for her to punish her, because, perhaps, she had 
some day unwittingly picked up the dung of the 
king's cattle. She went to the palace, and was 
admitted into the king's private chamber. The 
king asked her whether she had a very fair 
daughter, and whether that daughter was the friend 
of his own minister's and priest's daughters. When 
the woman answered in the affirmative, he said to 
her, " I will marry your daughter, and make her 
my queen." The woman hardly believed her own 
ears — the thing was so strange. He, however, 
solemnly declared to her that he had made up his 
mind, and was determined to marry her daughter. 
It was soon known in the capital that the king 
was going to marry the daughter of the old woman 

who picked up cow-dung in the fields. When 

229 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xix 

the six queens heard the news, they would not 
believe it, till the king himself told them that the 
news was true. They thought that the king had 
somehow got mad. They reasoned with him 
thus — " What folly, what madness, to marry a girl 
who is not fit to be our maid-servant ! And you 
expect us to treat her as our equal — a girl whose 
mother goes about picking up cow-dung in the 
fields ! Surely, my lord, you are beside your- 
self ! " The king's purpose, however, remained 
unshaken. The royal astrologer was called, and an 
auspicious day was fixed for the celebration of 
the king's marriage. On the appointed day 
the royal priest tied the marital knot, and the 
daughter of the poor old picker-up of cow-dung in 
the fields became the seventh and best beloved 
queen. 

Some time after the celebration of the marriage, 
the king went for six months to another part of his 
dominions. Before setting out he called to him 
the seventh queen, and said to her, " I am going 
away to another part of my dominions for six 
months. Before the expiration of that period I 
expect you to be confined. But I should like to 
be present with you at the time, as your enemies 
may do mischief. Take this golden bell and hang 
it in your room. When the pains of childbirth 
come upon you, ring this bell, and I will be with 
you in a moment in whatever part of my dominions 
I may be at the time. Remember, you are to 
ring the bell only when you feel the pains of child- 
birth." After saying this the king started on his 

230 



XIX BOY WITH MOON ON FOREHEAD 

journey. The six queens, who had overheard the 

king, went on the next day to the apartments of 

the seventh queen, and said, " What a nice bell of 

gold you have got, sister ! Where did you get it, 

and why have you hung it up ? " The seventh 

queen, in her simplicity, said, " The king has given 

it to me, and if I were to ring it, the king would 

immediately come to me wherever he might be at 

the time." " Impossible ! " said the six queens, 

" you must have misunderstood the king. Who 

can believe that this bell can be heard at the 

distance of hundreds of miles ? Besides, if it could 

be heard, how would the king be able to 

travel a great distance in the twinkling of an eye ? 

This must be a hoax. If you ring the bell, you 

will find that what the king said was pure 

nonsense." The six queens then told her to make 

a trial. At first she was unwilling, remembering 

what the king had told her ; but at last she was 

prevailed upon to ring the bell. The king was at 

the moment half-way to the capital of his other 

dominions, but at the ringing of the bell he stopped 

short in his journey, turned back, and in no time 

stood in the queen's apartments. Finding the 

queen going about in her rooms, he asked why she 

had rung the bell though her hour had not come. 

She, without informing the king of the entreaty of 

the six queens, replied that she rang the bell only 

to see whether what he had said was true. The 

king was somewhat indignant, told her distinctly 

not to ring the bell again till the moment of the 

coming upon her of the pains of childbirth, and 

231 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xix 

then went away. After the lapse of some weeks 
the six queens again begged of the seventh queen 
to make a second trial of the bell. They said to 
her, " The first time when you rang the bell, the 
king was only at a short distance from you, it was 
therefore easy for him to hear the bell and to come 
to you ; but now he has long ago settled in his 
other capital, let us see if he will now hear the 
bell and come to you." She resisted for a long 
time, but was at last prevailed upon by them to 
ring the bell. When the sound of the bell reached 
the king he was in court dispensing justice, but 
when he heard the sound of the bell (and no one 
else heard it) he closed the court and in no time 
stood in the queen's apartments. Finding that the 
queen was not about to be confined, he asked her 
why she had again rung the bell before her hour. 
She, without saying anything of the importunities 
of the six queens, replied that she merely made a 
second trial of the bell. The king became very 
angry, and said to her, " Now listen, since you have 
called me twice for nothing, let it be known to 
you that when the throes of childbirth do really 
come upon you, and you ring the bell ever so 
lustily, I will not come to you. You must be left 
to your fate." The king then went away. 

At last the day of the seventh queen's deliver- 
ance arrived. On first feeling the pains she rang 
the golden bell. She waited, but the king did 
not make his appearance. She rang again with 
all her might, still the king did not make his 

appearance. The king certainly did hear the 

232 



XIX 



BOY WITH MOON ON FOREHEAD 



sound of the bell ; but he did not come as he was 
displeased with the queen. When the six queens 
saw that the king did not come, they went to the 
seventh queen and told her that it was not 
customary with the ladies of the palace to be con- 
fined in the king's apartments ; she must go to a hut 
near the stables. They then sent for the midwife 
of the palace, and heavily bribed her to make 
away with the infant the moment it should be 
born into the world. The seventh queen gave 
birth to a son who had the moon on his forehead 
and stars on the palms of his hands, and also to an 
uncommonly beautiful girl. The midwife had 
come provided with a couple of newly born pups. 
She put the pups before the mother, saying — 
" You have given birth to these," and took away 
the twin-children in an earthen vessel. The 
queen was quite insensible at the time, and did not 
notice the twins at the time they were carried 
away. The king, though he was angry with the 
seventh queen, yet remembering that she was 
destined to give birth to the heir of his throne, 
changed his mind, and came to see her the next 
morning. The pups were produced before the 
king as the offspring of the queen. The king's 
anger and vexation knew no bounds. He ordered 
that the seventh queen should be expelled from 
the palace, that she should be clothed in leather, 
and that she should be employed in the market- 
place to drive away crows and to keep off dogs. 
Though scarcely able to move she was driven 
away from the palace, stripped of her fine robes, 

233 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xix 

clothed in leather, and set to drive away the crows 
of the market-place. 

The midwife, when she put the twins in the 
earthen vessel, bethought herself of the best way 
to destroy them. She did not think it proper to 
throw them into a tank, lest they should be dis- 
covered the next day. Neither did she think of 
burying them in the ground, lest they should be 
dug up by a jackal and exposed to the gaze of 
people. The best way to make an end of them, 
she thought, would be to burn them, and reduce 
them to ashes, that no trace might be left of them. 
But how could she, at that dead hour of night, 
burn them without some other person helping her .? 
A happy thought struck her. There was a potter 
on the outskirts of the city, who used during the 
day to mould vessels of clay on his wheel, and 
burn them during the latter part of the night. 
The midwife thought that the best plan would be 
to put the vessel with the twins along with the 
unburnt clay vessels which the potter had arranged 
in order and gone to sleep expecting to get up late 
at night and set them on fire ; in this way, she 
thought, the twins would be reduced to ashes. 
She, accordingly, put the vessel with the twins 
along with the unburnt clay vessels of the potter, 
and went away. 

Somehow or other, that night the potter and 
his wife overslept themselves. It was near the 
break of day when the potter's wife, awaking 
out of sleep, roused her husband, and said, " Oh, 
my good man, we have overslept ourselves ; it is 

234 



XIX BOY WITH MOON ON FOREHEAD 

now near morning and I much fear it is now too 
late to set the pots on fire." Hastily unbolting 
the door of her cottage, she rushed out to the 
place where the pots were ranged in rows. She 
could scarcely believe her eyes when she saw that 
all the pots had been baked and were looking 
bright red, though neither she nor her husband 
had applied any fire to them. Wondering at her 
good luck, and not knowing what to make of it, 
she ran to her husband and said, "Just come and 
see ! " The potter came, saw, and wondered. 
The pots had never before been so well baked. 
Who could have done this ? This could have 
proceeded only from some god or goddess. 
Fumbling about the pots, he accidentally upturned 
one in which, lo and behold, were seen huddled 
up together two newly born infants of unearthly 
beauty. The potter said to his wife, " My dear, 
you must pretend to have given birth to these 
beautiful children." Accordingly all arrangements 
were made, and in due time it was given out that 
the twins had been born to her. And such lovely 
twins they were ! On the same day many women 
of the neighbourhood came to see the potter's wife 
and the twins to which she had given birth, and to 
offer their congratulations on this unexpected good 
fortune. As for the potter's wife, she could not 
be too proud of her pretended children, and said to 
her admiring friends, " I had hardly hoped to have 
children at all. But now that the gods have given 
me these twins, may they receive the blessings of 
you all, and live for ever ! " 

235 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xix 

The twins grew and were strengthened. The 
brother and sister, when they played about in the 
fields and lanes, were the admiration of every 
one who saw them ; and all wondered at the 
uncommonly good luck of the potter in being 
blessed with such angelic children. They were 
about twelve years old when the potter, their 
reputed father, became dangerously ill. It was 
evident to all that his sickness would end in death. 
The potter, perceiving his last end approaching, 
said to his wife, " My dear, I am going the way of 
all the earth ; but I am leaving to you enough to 
live upon ; live on and take care of these children." 
The woman said to her husband, " I am not going 
to survive you. Like all good and faithful wives, 
I am determined to die along with you. You and 
I will burn together on the same funeral pyre. 
As for the children, they are old enough to take 
care of themselves, and you are leaving them 
enough money." Her friends tried to dissuade 
her from her purpose, but in vain. The potter 
died ; and as his remains were being burnt, his 
wife, now a widow, threw herself on the pyre, and 
burnt herself to death. 

The boy with the moon on his forehead — by 

the way, he always kept his head covered with a 

turban lest the halo should attract notice — and his 

sister, now broke up the potter's establishment, 

sold the wheel and the pots and pans, and went to 

the bazaar in the king's city. The moment they 

entered, the bazaar was lit up on a sudden. The 

shopkeepers of the bazaar were greatly surprised. 

236 




v>/l<R.vNicKv GoBue^ 






"A bright light, like that of the moon, was seen shining 
on his forehead." 



XIX BOY WITH MOON ON FOREHEAD 

They thought some divine beings must have 
entered the place. They looked upon the beauti- 
ful boy and his sister with w^onder. They begged 
of them to stay in the bazaar. They built a house 
for them. When they used to ramble about, they 
were always followed at a distance by the woman 
clothed in leather, who was appointed by the king 
to drive away the crows of the bazaar. By some 
unaccountable impulse she used also to hang about 
the house in which they lived. The boy in a 
short time bought a horse, and went a-hunting in 
the neighbouring forests. One day while he was 
hunting, the king was also hunting in the same 
forest, and seeing a brother huntsman the king 
drew near to him. The king was struck with the 
beauty of the lad and a yearning for him the 
moment he saw him. As a deer went past, the 
youth shot an arrow, and the reaction of the force 
necessary to shoot the arrow made the turban of 
his head fall off, on which a bright light, like 
that of the moon, was seen shining on his fore- 
head. The king saw, and immediately thought 
of the son with the moon on his forehead and 
stars on the palms of his hands who was to have 
been born of his seventh queen. The youth on 
letting fly the arrow galloped off, in spite of the 
earnest entreaty of the king to wait and speak to 
him. The king went home a sadder man than he 
came out of it. He became very moody and 
melancholy. The six queens asked him why he 
was looking so sad. He told them that he had 
seen in the woods a lad with the moon on his 

237 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xix 

forehead, which reminded him of the son who 
was to be born of the seventh queen. The six 
queens tried to comfort him in the best way they 
could ; but they wondered who the youth could 
be. Was it possible that the twins were living ? 
Did not the midwife say that she had burnt both 
the son and the daughter to ashes ? Who, then, 
could this lad be ? The midwife was sent for by 
the six queens and questioned. She swore that 
she had seen the twins burnt. As for the lad 
whom the king had met with, she would soon find 
out who he was. On making inquiries, the 
midwife soon found out that two strangers were 
living in the bazaar in a house which the 
shopkeepers had built for them. She entered the 
house and saw the girl only, as the lad had again 
gone out a-shooting. She pretended to be their 
aunt, who had gone away to another part of the 
country shortly after their birth ; she had been 
searching after them for a long time, and was now 
glad to find them in the king's city near the 
palace. She greatly admired the beauty of the 
girl, and said to her, " My dear child, you are so 
beautiful, you require the kataki^ flower properly 
to set off your beauty. You should tell your 
brother to plant a row of that flower in this court- 
yard." " What flower is that, auntie ? I never 
saw it." " How could you have seen it, my 
child ? It is not found here ; it grows on the 
other side of the ocean, guarded by seven hundred 
Rakshasas." " How, then," said the girl, " will 

1 Calotropis gigantea. 
238 



"The six queens tried to comfort him.' 




■ 


UP^ 


Ik 




j 


m 

i 




;'*: 



XIX BOY WITH MOON ON FOREHEAD 

my brother get it ? " " He may try to get it, if 
you speak, to him," replied the woman. The 
woman made this proposal in the hope that the 
boy with the moon on his forehead would perish 
in the attempt to get the flower. 

When the youth with the moon on his fore- 
head returned from hunting, his sister told him of 
the visit paid to her by their aunt, and requested 
him, if possible, to get for her the kataki flower. 
He was sceptical about the existence of any aunt 
of theirs in the world, but he was resolved that, 
to please his beloved sister, he would get the 
flower on which she had set her heart. Next 
morning, accordingly, he started on his journey, 
after bidding his sister not to stir out of the house 
till his return. He rode on his fleet steed, which 
was of the pakshiraj'^ tribe, and soon reached the 
outskirts of what seemed to him dense forests of 
interminable length. He descried some Rakshasas 
prowling about. He went to some distance, shot 
with his arrows some deer and rhinoceroses in the 
neighbouring thickets, and, approaching the place 
where the Rakshasas were prowling about, called 
out, " O auntie dear, O auntie dear, your nephew 
is here." A huge Rakshasi came towards him 
and said, " O, you are the youth with the moon 
on your forehead and stars on the palms of your 
hands. We were all expecting you, but as you 
have called me aunt, I will not eat you up. What 
is it you want ? Have you brought any eatables 

* Literally the king of birds, a fabulous species of horse remarkable for 
their swiftness. 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xix 

for me ? " The youth gave her the deer and 
rhinoceroses which he had killed. Her mouth 
watered at the sight of the dead animals, and she 
began eating them. After swallowing down all ' 
the carcases, she said, " Well, what do you want ? '* 
The youth said, " I want some kataki flowers for 
my sister." She then told him that it would be 
difficult for him to get the flower, as it was 
guarded by seven hundred Rakshasas ; however, 
he might make the attempt, but in the first 
instance he must go to his uncle on the north side 
of that forest. While the youth was going to his 
uncle of the north, on the way he killed some deer 
and rhinoceroses, and seeing a gigantic Rakshasa at 
some distance, cried out, " Uncle dear, uncle dear, 
your nephew is here. Auntie has sent me to you." 
The Rakshasa came near and said, " You are the 
youth with the moon on your forehead and stars 
on the palms of your hands ; I would have 
swallowed you outright, had you not called me 
uncle, and had you not said that your aunt had 
sent you to me. Now, what is it you want \ " 
The savoury deer and rhinoceroses were then 
presented to him ; he ate them all, and then 
listened to the petition of the youth. The youth 
wanted the kataki flower. The Rakshasa said, 
" You want the kataki flower ! Very well, try 
and get it if you can. After passing through this 
forest, you will come to an impenetrable forest of 
kachiri. ^ You will say to that forest, ' O mother 
kachiri ! please make way for me, or else I die.* 

^ Arum foniicatum. 
240 



XIX BOY WITH MOON ON FOREHEAD 

On that the forest will open up a passage for you. 
You will next come to the ocean. You will say 
to the ocean, ' O mother ocean ! please make way 
for me, or else I die,' and the ocean will make 
way for you. After crossing the ocean, you enter 
the gardens where the kataki blooms. Good-bye ; 
do as I have told you." The youth thanked his 
Rakshasa-uncle, and went on his way. After he 
had passed through the forest, he saw before him 
an impenetrable forest of kachiri. It was so close 
and thick, and withal so bristling with thorns, that 
not a mouse could go through it. Remembering 
the advice of his uncle, he stood before the forest 
with folded hands, and said, " O mother kachiri I 
please make way for me, or else I die." On a 
sudden a clean path was opened up in the forest, 
and the youth gladly passed through it. The 
ocean now lay before him. He said to the ocean, 
" O mother ocean ! make way for me, or else I 
die." Forthwith the waters of the ocean stood up 
on two sides like two walls, leaving an open 
passage between them, and the youth passed 
through dryshod. 

Now, right before him were the gardens of the 
kataki flower. He entered the inclosure, and found 
himself in a spacious palace which seemed to be 
unoccupied. On going from apartment to apart- 
ment he found a young lady of more than earthly 
beauty sleeping on a bedstead of gold. He went 
near, and noticed two little sticks, one of gold and 
the other of silver, lying in the bedstead. The 

silver stick lay near the feet of the sleeping beauty, 

241 R 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xix 

and the golden one near the head. He took up 

the sticks in his hands, and as he was examining 

them, the golden stick accidentally fell upon the 

feet of the lady. In a moment the lady woke and 

sat up, and said to the youth, " Stranger, how have 

you come to this dismal place ? I know who you 

are, and I know your history. You are the youth 

with the moon on your forehead and stars on the 

palms of your hands. Flee, flee from this place ! 

This is the residence of seven hundred Rakshasas 

who guard the gardens of the kataki flower. They 

have all gone a-hunting ; they will return by 

sundov/n ; and if they find you here you will be 

eaten up. One Rakshasi brought me from the 

earth where my father is king. She loves me very 

dearly, and will not let me go away. By means 

of these gold and silver sticks she kills me when 

she goes away in the morning, and by means of 

those sticks she revives me when she returns in 

the evening. Flee, flee hence, or you die ! " 

The youth told the young lady how his sister 

wished very much to have the kataki flower, how 

he passed through the forest of kachiri, and how 

he crossed the ocean. He said also that he was 

determined not to go alone, he must take the 

young lady along with him. The remaining part 

of the day they spent together in rambling about 

the gardens. As the time was drawing near when 

the Rakshasas should return, the youth buried 

himself amid an enormous heap of kataki flower 

which lay in an adjoining apartment, after killing 

the young lady by touching her head with the 

242 



XIX BOY WITH MOON ON FOREHEAD 

golden stick. Just after sunset the youth heard the 
sound as of a mighty tempest : it was the return 
of the seven hundred Rakshasas into the gardens. 
One of them entered the apartment of the young 
lady, revived her, and said, "I smell a human being, 
I smell a human being." The young lady replied, 
"How can a human being come to this place ? I am 
the only human being here." The Rakshasi then 
stretched herself on the floor, and told the young 
lady to shampoo her legs. As she was going on 
shampooing, she let fall a tear-drop on the Rak- 
shasi's leg. " Why are you weeping, my dear 
child ? " asked the raw - eater ; " why are you 
weeping ? Is anything troubling you ? " " No, 
mamma," answered the young lady, " nothing is 
troubling me. What can trouble me, when you 
have made me so comfortable ? I was only thinking 
what will become of me when you die." " When 
I die, child ? " said the Rakshasi ; " shall I die .? 
Yes, of course all creatures die ; but the death of 
a Rakshasa or Rakshasi will never happen. You 
know, child, that deep tank in the middle part of 
these gardens. Well, at the bottom of that tank 
there is a wooden box, in which there are a male 
and a female bee. It is ordained by fate that if 
a human being who has the moon on his forehead 
and stars on the palms of his hands were to come 
here and dive into that tank, and get hold of the 
same wooden box, and crush to death the male 
and female bees without letting a drop of their 
blood fall to the ground, then we should die. But 
the accomplishment of this decree of fate is, I 

2+3 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xix 

think, Impossible. For, in the first place, there 

can be no such human being who will have the 

moon on his forehead and stars on the palms of 

his hands ; and, in the second place, if there be 

such a man, he will find it impossible to come to 

this place, guarded as it is by seven hundred of us, 

encompassed by a deep ocean, and barricaded by 

an impervious forest of kachiri — not to speak of the 

outposts and sentinels that are stationed on the 

other side of the forest. And then, even if he 

succeeds in coming here, he will perhaps not know 

the secret of the wooden box ; and even if he 

knows of the secret of the wooden box, he may 

not succeed in killing the bees without letting a 

drop of their blood fall on the ground. And woe 

be to him if a drop does fall on the ground, for 

in that case he will be torn up into seven hundred 

pieces by us. You see then, child, that we are 

almost immortal — not actually, but virtually so. 

You may, therefore, dismiss your fears." 

On the next morning the Rakshasi got up, 

killed the young lady by means of the sticks, and 

went away in search of food along with other 

Rakshasas and Rakshasis. The lad, who had the 

moon on his forehead and stars on the palms of 

his hands, came out of the heap of flowers and 

revived the young lady. The young lady recited 

to the young man the whole of the conversation 

she had had with the Rakshasi. It was a perfect 

revelation to him. He, however, lost no time 

in beginning to act. He shut the heavy gates of 

the gardens. He dived into the tank and brought 

244 



XIX BOY WITH MOON ON FOREHEAD 

up the wooden box. He opened the wooden box, 

and caught hold of the male and female bees as 

they were about to escape. He crushed them on 

the palms of his hands, besmearing his body with 

every drop of their blood. The moment this was 

done, loud cries and groans were heard around 

about the inclosure of the gardens. Agreeably to 

the decree of fate all the Rakshasas approached the 

gardens and fell down dead. The youth with the 

moon on his forehead took as many kataki flowers 

as he could, together with their seeds, and left the 

palace, around which were lying in mountain heaps 

the carcases of the mighty dead, in company with 

the young and beautiful lady. The waters of the 

ocean retreated before the youth as before, and 

the forest of kachiri also opened up a passage 

through it ; and the happy couple reached the 

house in the bazaar, where they were welcomed 

by the sister of the youth who had the moon on 

his forehead. 

On the following morning the youth, as usual, 

went to hunt. The king was also there. A deer 

passed by, and the youth shot an arrow. As he 

shot, the turban as usual fell off his head, and a 

bright light issued from it. The king saw and 

wondered. He told the youth to stop, as he 

wished to contract friendship with him. The 

youth told him to come to his house, and gave 

him his address. The king went to the house 

of the youth in the middle of the day. Pushpavati 

— for that was the name of the young lady that 

had been brought from beyond the ocean — told the 

245 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xix 

king — for she knew the whole history — how his 
seventh queen had been persuaded by the other six 
queens to ring the bell twice before her time, how 
she was delivered of a beautiful boy and girl, how 
pups were substituted in their room, how the 
twins were saved in a miraculous manner in the 
house of the potter, how they were well treated in 
the bazaar, and how the youth with the moon on 
his forehead rescued her from the clutches of the 
Rakshasas. The king, mightily incensed with the 
six queens, had them, on the following day, buried 
alive in the ground. The seventh queen was then 
brought from the market-place and reinstated in 
her position ; and the youth with the moon on his 
forehead, and the lovely Pushpavati and their 
sister, lived happily together. 

Here my story endeth^ 

The Natiya-thorn ivithereth^ etc. 



246 



XX 

THE GHOST WHO WAS AFRAID OF 
BEING BAGGED 

Once on a time there lived a barber who had a 
wife. They did not live happily together, as the 
wife always complained that she had not enough 
to eat. Many were the curtain lectures which 
were inflicted upon the poor barber. The wife 
used often to say to her mate, " If you had not the 
means to support a wife, why did you marry me ? 
People who have not means ought not to indulge 
in the luxury of a wife. When I was in my 
father's house I had plenty to eat, but it seems 
that I have come to your house to fast. Widows 
only fast ; I have become a widow in your life- 
time." She was not content with mere words ; 
she got very angry one day and struck her husband 
with the broomstick of the house. Stung with 
shame, and abhorring himself on account of his 
wife's reproach and beating, he left his house, 
with the implements of his craft, and vowed never 
to return and see his wife's face again till he had 
become rich. He went from village to village, 

247 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xx 

and towards nightfall came to the outskirts of a 
forest. He laid himself down at the foot of a tree, 
and spent many a sad hour in bemoaning his hard 
lot. 

It so chanced that the tree, at the foot of 
which the barber was lying down, was dwelt in 
by a ghost. The ghost seeing a human being at 
the foot of the tree naturally thought of destroying 
him. With this intention the ghost alighted from 
the tree, and, with outspread arms and a gaping 
mouth, stood like a tall palmyra tree before the 
barber, and said, *' Now, barber, I am going to 
destroy you. Who will protect you .? " The 
barber, though quaking in every limb through 
fear, and his hair standing erect, did not lose his 
presence of mind, but, with that promptitude 
and shrewdness which are characteristic of his 
fraternity, replied, " O spirit, you will destroy me ! 
wait a bit and I'll show you how many ghosts I 
have captured this very night and put into my 
bag ; and right glad am I to find you here, as I 
shall have one more ghost in my bag." So saying 
the barber produced from his bag a small looking- 
glass, which he always carried about with him 
along with his razors, his whet-stone, his strop and 
other utensils, to enable his customers to see 
whether their beards had been well shaved or not. 
He stood up, placed the looking-glass right against 
the face of the ghost, and said, " Here you see one 
ghost which I have seized and bagged ; I am 
going to put you also in the bag to keep this ghost 

company." The ghost, seeing his own face in the 

248 



" ' Now, barber, I am going to destroy you. 
Who will protect you ? ' " 




vV/\RLw>cK OoauEl 



XX GHOST AFRAID OF BEING BAGGED 

looking-glass, was convinced of the truth of what 
the barber had said, and was filled with fear. He 
said to the barber, " O, sir barber, I'll do whatever 
you bid me, only do not put me into your bag. I'll 
give you whatever you want." The barber said, 
" You ghosts are a faithless set, there is no trusting 
you. You will promise, and not give what you 
promise." " O, sir," replied the ghost, " be 
merciful to me ; I'll bring to you whatever you 
order ; and if I do not bring it, then put me into 
your bag." " Very well," said the barber, " bring 
me just now one thousand gold mohurs ; and by 
to-morrow night you must raise a granary in my 
house, and fill it with paddy. Go and get the 
gold mohurs immediately : and if you fail to do 
my bidding you will certainly be put into my 
bag." The ghost gladly consented to the con- 
ditions. He went away, and in the course of a 
short time returned with a bag containing a 
thousand gold mohurs. The barber was delighted 
beyond measure at the sight of the gold mohurs. 
He then told the ghost to see to it that by the 
following night a granary was erected in his house 
and filled with paddy. 

It was during the small hours of the morning that 
the barber, loaded with the heavy treasure, knocked 
at the door of his house. His wife, who reproached 
herself for having in a fit of rage struck her husband 
with a broomstick, got out of bed and unbolted 
the door. Her surprise was great when she saw 
her husband pour out of the bag a glittering heap 

of gold mohurs. 

249 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xx 

The next night the poor devil, through fear of 
being bagged, raised a large granary in the barber's 
house, and spent the live-long night in carrying on 
his back large packages of paddy till the granary 
was filled up to the brim. The uncle of this 
terrified ghost, seeing his worthy nephew carrying 
on his back loads of paddy, asked what the matter 
was. The ghost related what had happened. The 
uncle-ghost then said, " You fool, you think the 
barber can bag you ! The barber is a cunning 
fellow ; he has cheated you, like a simpleton as 
you are." " You doubt," said the nephew-ghost, 
" the power of the barber ! come and see." The 
uncle-ghost then went to the barber's house, and 
peeped into it through a window. The barber, 
perceiving from the blast of wind which the arrival 
of the ghost had produced that a ghost was at 
the window, placed full before it the self-same 
looking-glass, saying, " Come now. Til put you 
also into the bag." The uncle-ghost, seeing his 
own face in the looking-glass, got quite frightened, 
and promised that very night to raise another 
granary and to fill it, not this time with paddy, 
but with rice. So in two nights the barber became 
a rich man, and lived happily with his wife 
begetting sons and daughters. 

Here my story endeth^ 

The Nadya-thorn wither eth, etc. 



250 



XXI 

THE FIELD OF BONES 

Once on a time there lived a king who had a son. 
The young prince had three friends, the son of the 
prime minister, the son of the prefect of the police, 
and the son of the richest merchant of the city. 
These four friends had great love for one another. 
Once on a time they bethought themselves of 
seeing distant lands. They accordingly set out 
one day, each one riding on a horse. They rode 
on and on, till about noon they came to the out- 
skirts of what seemed to be a dense forest. There 
they rested a while, tying to the trees their horses, 
which began to browse. When they had refreshed 
themselves, they again mounted their horses and 
resumed their journey. At sunset they saw in the 
depths of the forest a temple, near which they 
dismounted, wishing to lodge there that night. 
Inside the temple there was a sannyasi^ apparently 
absorbed in meditation, as he did not notice the 
four friends. When darkness covered the forest, a 
light was seen inside the temple. The four friends 

1 Religious devotee. 
251 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xxi 

resolved to pass the night on the balcony of the 
temple ; and as the forest was infested with many 
wild beasts, they deemed it safe that each of them 
should watch one prahara ^ of the night, while the 
rest should sleep. It fell to the lot of the 
merchant's son to watch during the first prahara^ 
that is to say, from six in the evening to nine 
o'clock at night. Towards the end of his watch 
the merchant's son saw a wonderful sight. The 
hermit took up a bone with his hand, and repeated 
over it some words which the merchant's son 
distinctly heard. The moment the words were 
uttered, a clattering sound was heard in the 
precincts of the temple, and the merchant's son 
saw many bones moving from different parts of 
the forest. The bones collected themselves inside 
the temple, at the foot of the hermit, and lay there 
in a heap. As soon as this took place, the watch 
of the merchant's son came to an end ; and, rousing 
the son of the prefect of the police, he laid himself 
down to sleep. 

The prefect's son, when he began his watch, 
saw the hermit sitting cross-legged, wrapped in 
meditation, near a heap of bones, the history of 
which he, of course, did not know. For a long 
time nothing happened. The dead stillness of the 
night was broken only by the howl of the hyaena 
and the wolf, and the growl of the tiger. When 
his time was nearly up he saw a wonderful sight. 
The hermit looked at the heap of bones lying 
before him, and uttered some words which the 

1 Eighth part of twenty-four hours, that is, three hours. 

252 



XXI THE FIELD OF BONES 

prefect's son distinctly heard. No sooner had the 
words been uttered than a noise was heard among 
the bones, " and behold a shaking, and the bones 
came together, bone to its bone " ; and the bones 
which were erewhile lying together in a heap now 
took the form of a skeleton. Struck with wonder, 
the prefect's son would have watched longer, but 
his time was over. He therefore laid himself 
down to sleep, after rousing the minister's son, to 
whom, however, he told nothing of what he had 
seen, as the merchant's son had not told him 
anything of what he had seen. 

The minister's son got up, rubbed his eyes, and 
began watching. It was the dead hour of mid- 
night, when ghosts, hobgoblins, and spirits of every 
name and description, go roaming over the wide 
world, and when all creation, both animate and 
inanimate, is in deep repose. Even the howl of 
the wolf and the hyasna and the growl of the tiger 
had ceased. The minister's son looked towards 
the temple, and saw the hermit sitting wrapt up 
in meditation ; and near him lying something 
which seemed to be the skeleton of some animal. 
He looked towards the dense forest and the darkness 
all around, and his hair stood on end through 
terror. In this state of fear and trembling he spent 
nearly three hours, when an uncommon sight in 
the temple attracted his notice. The hermit, 
looking at the skeleton before him, uttered some 
words which the minister's son distinctly heard. 
As soon as the words were uttered, " lo, the sinews 
and the flesh came up upon the bones, and the skin 

253 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xxi 

covered them above " ; but there v^as no breath 
in the skeleton. Astonished at the sight, the 
minister's son would have sat up longer, but his 
time was up. He therefore laid himself down to 
sleep, after having roused the king's son, to whom, 
however, he said nothing of what he had seen and 
heard. 

The king's son, when he began his watch, saw 
the hermit sitting, completely absorbed in devotion, 
near a figure which looked like some animal, but 
he was not a little surprised to see the animal lying 
apparently lifeless, without showing any of the 
symptoms of life. The prince spent his hours 
ap^reeably enough, especially as he had had a long 
sleep, and as he felt none of that depression which 
the dead hour of midnight sheds on the spirits ; 
and he amused himself with marking how the 
shades of darkness were becoming thinner and paler 
every moment. But just as he noticed a red streak 
in the east, he heard a sound from inside the 
temple. He turned his eyes towards the hermit. 
The hermit, looking towards the inanimate figure 
of the animal lying before him, uttered some words 
which the prince distinctly heard. The moment 
the words were spoken, " breath came into the 
animal ; it lived, it stood up upon its feet " ; and 
quickly rushed out of the temple into the forest. 
That moment the crows cawed ; the watch of the 
prince came to an end ; his three companions were 
roused ; and after a short time they mounted their 
horses, and resumed their journey, each one thinking 

of the strange sight seen in the temple. 

254 



XXI THE FIELD OF BONES 

They rode on and on through the dense and 
interminable forest, and hardly spoke to one another, 
till about mid-day they halted under a tree near a 
pool for refreshment. After they had refreshed 
themselves with eating some fruits of the forest 
and drinking water from the pool, the prince said 
to his three companions, " Friends, did you not see 
something in the temple of the devotee ? I'll tell 
you what I saw, but first let me hear what you all 
saw. Let the merchant's son first tell us what he 
saw as he had the first watch ; and the others will 
follow in order." 

Merchant's son. I'll tell you what I saw. I 
saw the hermit take up a bone in his hand, and 
repeat some words which I well remember. The 
moment those words were uttered, a clattering 
sound was heard in the precincts of the temple, and 
I saw many bones running into the temple from 
different directions. The bones collected them- 
selves together inside the temple at the feet of the 
hermit, and lay there in a heap. I would have 
gladly remained longer to see the end, but my 
time was up, and I had to rouse my friend, the son 
of the prefect of the police. 

Prefecfs son. Friends, this is what I saw. The 
hermit looked at the heap of bones lying before 
him, and uttered some words which I well re- 
member. No sooner had the words been uttered 
than I heard a noise among the bones, and, strange 
to say, the bones jumped up, each bone joined itself 
to its fellow, and the heap became a perfect skeleton. 
At that moment my watch came to an end, and I 

255 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xxi 

had to rouse my respected friend the minister's 
son. 

Minister s son. Well, when I began my watch 
I saw the said skeleton lying near the hermit. After 
three mortal hours, during which I was in great 
fear, I saw the hermit lift his eyes towards the 
skeleton and utter some words which I well 
remember. As soon as the words were uttered the 
skeleton was covered with flesh and hair, but it did 
not show any symptom of life, as it lay motionless. 
Just then my watch ended, and I had to rouse my 
royal friend the prince. 

King's son. Friends, from what you yourselves 
saw, you can guess what I saw. I saw the hermit 
turn towards the skeleton covered with skin and 
hair, and repeat some words which I well re- 
member. The moment the words were uttered, 
the skeleton stood up on its feet, and it looked a fine 
and lusty deer, and while I was admiring its beauty, 
it skipped out of the temple, and ran into the 
forest. That moment the crows cawed. 

The four friends, after hearing one another's 
story, congratulated themselves on the possession 
of supernatural power, and they did not doubt but 
that if they pronounced the words which they had 
heard the hermit utter, the utterance would be 
followed by the same results. But they resolved 
to verify their pov/er by an actual experiment. 
Near the foot of the tree they found a bone lying 
on the ground, and they accordingly resolved to 
experiment upon it. The merchant's son took up 

the bone, and repeated over it the formula he had 

256 



XXI THE FIELD OF BONES 

heard from the hermit. Wonderful to relate, a 
hundred bones immediately came rushing from 
different directions, and lay in a heap at the foot of 
the tree. The son of the prefect of the police then 
looking upon the heap of bones, repeated the formula 
which he had heard from the hermit, and forth- 
with there was a shaking among the bones ; the 
several bones joined themselves together, and formed 
themselves into a skeleton, and it was the skeleton 
of a quadruped. The minister's son then drew near 
the skeleton, and, looking intently upon it, pro- 
nounced over it the formula which he had heard 
from the hermit. The skeleton immediately was 
covered with flesh, skin, and hair, and, horrible to 
relate, the animal proved itself to be a royal tiger 
of the largest size. The four friends were filled 
with consternation. If the king's son were, by the 
repetition of the formula he had heard from the 
hermit, to make the beast alive, it might prove 
fatal to them all. The three friends, therefore, 
tried to dissuade the prince from giving life to the 
tiger. But the prince would not comply with the 
request. He naturally said, '■^ The manfras^ which 
you have learned have been proved true and 
efficacious. But how shall I know that the mantra 
which I have learned is equally efficacious ? I 
must have my mantra verified. Nor is it certain 
that we shall lose our lives by the experiment. 
Here is this high tree. You can climb into its 
topmost branches, and I shall also follow you 
thither after pronouncing the mantra.'' In vain 

* Charm or incantation. 

257 S 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xxi 

did the three friends dwell upon the extreme 
danger attending the experiment : the prince 
remained inexorable. The minister's son, the 
prefect's son, and the merchant's son climbed up 
into the topmost branches of the tree, while the 
king's son went up to the middle of the tree. 
From there, looking intently upon the lifeless tiger, 
he pronounced the words which he had learned 
from the hermit, and quickly ran up the tree. 
In the twinkling of an eye the tiger stood upright, 
gave out a terrible growl, with a tremendous 
spring killed all the four horses which were 
browsing at a little distance, and, dragging one of 
them, rushed towards the densest part of the forest. 
The four friends ensconced on the branches of the 
tree were almost petrified with fear at the sight 
of the terrible tiger ; but the danger was now over. 
The tiger went off at a great distance from them, 
and from its growl they judged that it must be at 
least two miles distance from them. After a little 
they came down from the tree ; and as they now 
had no horses on which to ride, they walked on 
foot through the forest, till, coming to its end, they 
reached the shore of the sea. They sat on the sea- 
shore hoping to see some ship sailing by. They 
had not sat long, when fortunately they descried 
a vessel in the offing. They waved their handker- 
chiefs, and made all sorts of signs to attract the 
notice of the people on board the ship. The 
captain and the crew noticed the men on the shore. 
They came towards the shore, took the men upon 

board, but added that as they were short of 

258 



" They approached a magnificent pile of buildings." 



XXI THE FIELD OF BONES 

provisions they could not have them a long time 

on board, but would put them ashore at the first 

port they came to. After four or five days' 

voyage, they saw not far from the shore high 

buildings and turrets, and supposing the place to be 

a large city, the four friends landed there. 

The four friends, immediately after landing, 

walked along a long avenue of stately trees, at the 

end of which was a bazaar. There were hundreds 

of shops in the bazaar, but not a single human 

being in them. There were sweetmeat shops in 

which there were heaps of confectioneries ranged in 

regular rows, but no human beings to sell them. 

There was the blacksmith's shop, there was the 

anvil, there were the bellows and the other tools of 

the smithy, but there was no smith there. There 

were stalls in which there were heaps of faded and 

dried vegetables, but no men or women to sell 

them. The streets were all deserted, no human 

beings, no cattle were to be seen there. There 

were carts, but no bullocks ; there were carriages, 

but no horses. The doors and windows of the 

houses of the city on both sides of the streets were 

all open, but no human being was visible in them. 

It seemed to be a deserted city. It seemed to be 

a city of the dead — and all the dead taken out and 

buried. The four friends were astonished — they 

were frightened at the sight. As they went on, 

they approached a magnificent pile of buildings, 

which seemed to be the palace of a king. They 

went to the gate and to the porter's lodge. They 

saw shields, swords, spears, and other weapons sus- 

259 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xxi 

pended in the lodge, but no porters. They entered 
the premises, but saw no guards, no human beings. 
They went to the stables, saw the troughs, grain, 
and grass lying about in profusion, but no horses. 
They went inside the palace, passed the long 
corridors — still no human being was visible. 
They went through six long courts — still no 
human being. They entered the seventh court, 
and there and then, for the first time, did they see 
living human beings. They saw coming towards 
them four princesses of matchless beauty. Each 
of these four princesses caught hold of the arm of 
each of the four friends ; and each princess called 
each man whom she had caught hold of her 
husband. The princesses said that they had been 
long waiting for the four friends, and expressed 
great joy at their arrival. The princesses took the 
four friends into the innermost apartments, and 
gave them a sumptuous feast. There were no 
servants attending them, the princesses themselves 
bringing in the provisions and setting them before 
the four friends. At the outset the four princesses 
told the four friends that no questions were to be 
asked about the depopulation of the city. After 
this, each princess went into her private apartment 
along with her newly-found husband. Shortly 
after the prince and princess had retired into their 
private apartment, the princess began to shed tears. 
On the prince inquiring into the cause, the prin- 
cess said, " O prince ! I pity you very much. 
You seem, by your bearing, to be the son of a 

king, and you have, no doubt, the heart of a king's 

260 



XXI THE FIELD OF BONES 

son ; I will therefore tell you my whole story, and 
the story of my three companions who look like 
princesses. I am the daughter of a king, whose 
palace this is, and those three creatures, who are 
dressed like princesses, and who have called your 
three friends their husbands, are Rakshasis. They 
came to this city some time ago ; they ate up my 
father, the king, my mother, the queen, my 
brothers, my sisters, of whom I had a large 
number. They ate up the king's ministers and 
servants. They ate up gradually all the people of 
the city, all my father's horses and elephants, and 
all the cattle of the city. You must have noticed, 
as you came to the palace, that there are no human 
beings, no cattle, no living thing in this city. 
They have all been eaten up by those three 
Rakshasis. They have spared me alone — and that, 
I suppose, only for a time. When the Rakshasis 
saw you and your friends from a distance, they 
were very glad, as they mean to eat you all up 
after a short time." 

King's son. But if this is the case, how do I 
know that you are not a Rakshasi yourself? 
Perhaps you mean to swallow me up by throwing 
me off my guard. 

Princess. I'll mention one fact which proves 

that those three creatures are Rakshasis, while I 

am not. Rakshasis, you know, eat food a hundred 

times larger in quantity than men or women. 

What the Rakshasis eat at table along with us is 

not sufficient to appease their hunger. They 

therefore go out at night to distant lands in search 

261 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xxi 

of men or cattle, as there are none in this city. 
If you ask your friends to watch and see whether 
their wives remain all night in their beds, they 
will find they go out and stay away a good part of 
the night, whereas you will find me the whole 
night with you. But please see that the Rakshasis 
do not get the slightest inkling of all this ; for 
if they hear of it, they will kill me in the first 
instance, and afterwards swallow you all up. 

The next day the king's son called together 
the minister's son, the prefect's son, and the 
merchant's son, and held a consultation, enjoining 
the strictest secrecy on all. He told them what 
he had heard from the princess, and requested 
them to lie awake in their beds to watch whether 
their pretended princesses went out at night or not. 
One presumptive argument in favour of the asser- 
tion of the princess was that all the pretended 
princesses were fast asleep during the whole of the 
day in consequence of their nightly wanderings, 
whereas the female friend of the king's son did not 
sleep at all during the day. The three friends 
accordingly lay in their beds at night pretending 
to be asleep and manifesting all the symptoms of 
deep sleep. Each one observed that his female 
friend at a certain hour, thinking her mate to be 
in deep sleep, left the room, stayed away the 
whole night, and returned to her bed only at dawn. 
During the following day each female friend slept 
out nearly the whole day, and woke up only in the 
afternoon. For two nights and days the three 

friends observed this. The king's son also 

262 



XXI THE FIELD OF BONES 

remained awake at night pretending to be asleep, 
but the princess was not observed for a single 
moment to leave the room, nor was she observed 
to sleep in the day. From these circumstances 
the friends of the king's son began to suspect that 
their partners were really Rakshasis as the princess 
said they were. 

By way of confirmation the princess also told 
the king's son, that the Rakshasis, after eating the 
flesh of men and animals, threw the bones towards 
the north of the city, where there was an immense 
collection of them. The king's son and his three 
friends went one day towards that part of the city, 
and sure enough they saw there immense heaps 
of the bones of men and animals piled up into hills. 
From this they became more and more convinced 
that the three women were Rakshasis in deed and 
truth. 

The question now was how to run away from 

these devourers of men and animals ? There was 

one circumstance greatly in favour of the four 

friends, and that was, that the three Rakshasis slept 

during nearly the whole day ; they had therefore 

the greater part of the day for the maturing of 

their plans. The princess advised them to go 

towards the sea -shore, and watch if any ships 

sailed that way. The four friends accordingly 

used to go to the sea- shore looking for ships. 

They were always accompanied by the princess, 

who took the precaution of carrying with her 

in a bundle her most valuable jewels, pearls and 

precious stones. It happened one day that they 

263 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xxi 

saw a ship passing at a great distance from the 
shore. They made signs which attracted the 
notice of the captain and crew. The ship came 
towards the land, and the four friends and princess 
were, after much entreaty, taken up. The princess 
exhorted the crew to row with all their might, 
for which she promised them a handsome reward ; 
for she knew that the Rakshasis would awake in 
the afternoon, and immediately come after the 
ship ; and they would assuredly catch hold of the 
vessel and destroy all the crew and passengers if it 
stood short of eighty miles from land, for the 
Rakshasis had the power of distending their bodies 
to the length of ten Tojanas} The four friends 
and the princess cheered on the crew, and the 
oarsmen rowed with all their might ; and the 
ship, favoured by the wind, shot over the deep like 
lightning. It was near sun-down when a terrible 
yell was heard on the shore. The Rakshasis had 
wakened from their sleep, and not finding either 
the four friends or the princess, naturally thought 
they had got hold of a ship and were escaping. 
They therefore ran along the shore with lightning 
rapidity, and seeing the ship afar off they distended 
their bodies. But fortunately the vessel was more 
than eighty miles off land, though only a trifle 
more : indeed, the ship was so dangerously near 
that the heads of the Rakshasis with their widely- 
distended jaws almost touched its stern. The 
words which the Rakshasis uttered in the hearing 
of the crew and passengers were — " O sister, so 

* Ayojana is nearly eight miles. 
264 



XXI THE FIELD OF BONES 

you are going to eat them all yourself alone." 
The minister's son, the prefect's son, and the 
merchant's son had all along a suspicion that the 
pretended princess, the prince's partner, might after 
all also be a Rakshasi ; that suspicion was now 
confirmed by what they heard the three Rakshasis 
say. Those words, however, produced no effect 
in the mind of the king's son, as from his intimate 
acquaintance with the princess he could not possibly 
take her to be a Rakshasi. 

The captain told the four friends and princess 
that as he was bound for distant regions in search 
of gold mines, he could not take them along with 
him ; he, therefore, proposed that on the next 
day he should put them ashore near some port, 
especially as they were now safe from the clutches 
of the Rakshasis. On the following day no port 
was visible for a long time ; towards the evening, 
however, they came near a port where the four 
friends and the princess were landed. After walking 
some distance, the princess, who had never been 
accustomed to take long walks, complained of 
fatigue and hunger ; they all therefore sat under 
a tree, and the king's son sent the merchant's son 
to buy some sweetmeats in the bazaar which they 
heard was not far off. The merchant's son did not 
return, as he was fully persuaded in his mind that 
the king's son's partner was as real a Rakshasi as 
the three others from whose clutches he had 
escaped. Seeing the delay of the merchant's son, 
the king's son sent the prefect's son after him ; but 
neither did he return, he being also convinced that 

265 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xxi 

the pretended princess was a Rakshasi. The 
minister's son was next sent ; but he also joined 
the other two. The king's son then himself 
went to the shop of the sweetmeat seller where 
he met his three friends, who made him remain 
with them by main force, earnestly declaring that 
the woman was no princess, but a real Rakshasi like 
the other three. Thus the princess was deserted 
by the four friends who returned to their own 
country, full of the adventures they had met with. 
In the meantime the princess walked to the 
bazaar and found shelter for a few days in the 
house of a poor woman, after which she set out 
for the city of the four friends, the name and 
whereabouts of which city she had learnt from 
the king's son. On arriving at the city, she sold 
some of her costly ornaments, pearls and precious 
stones, and hired a stately house for her residence 
with a suitable establishment. She caused herself 
to be proclaimed as a heaven-born dice-player, and 
challenged all the players in the city to play, the 
conditions of the game being that if she lost it she 
would give the winner a /ak/i ^ of rupees, and if 
she won it she should get a /ak/i from him who 
lost the game. She also got authority from the 
king of the country to imprison in her own house 
any one who could not pay her the stipulated sum 
of money. The merchant's son, the prefect's son, 
and the minister's son, who all looked upon them- 
selves as miraculous players, played with the 
princess, paid her many /ak/is, but being unable to 

* Ten thousand pounds sterling. 
266 



" Thus the princess was deserted." 







W>k<wiC»< GOBLE. 



XXI THE FIELD OF BONES 

pay her all the sums they owed her, were im- 
prisoned in her house. At last the king's son 
offered to play with her. The princess purposely 
allowed him to win the first game, which em- 
boldened him to play many times, in all of which 
he was the loser ; and being unable to pay the 
many lakhs owing her, the prince was about to be 
dragged into the dungeon, when the princess told 
him who she was. The merchant's son, the 
prefect's son, and the minister's son were brought 
out of their cells ; and the joy of the four friends 
knew no bounds. The king and the queen 
received their daughter-in-law with open arms, 
and with demonstrations of great festivity. 

Every one in the palace was glad except the 
princess. She could not forget that her parents, 
her brothers and sisters had been devoured by the 
Rakshasis, and that their bones, along with the 
bones of her father's subjects, stood in mountain 
heaps on the north side of the capital. The prince 
had told her that he and his three friends had the 
power of giving life to bones. They could then 
reconstruct the frames of her parents and other 
relatives ; but the difficulty lay in this — how to 
kill the three Rakshasis. Could not the hermit, 
who taught them to give life, not teach also how 
to take away life ? In all likelihood he could. 
Reasoning in this manner, the four friends and the 
princess went to the temple of the hermit in the 
forest, prayed to him to give them the secret of 
destroying life from a distance by a charm. The 

hermit became propitious, and granted the boon. 

267 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xxi 

A deer was passing by at the moment. The 
hermit took a handful of water, repeated over it 
some words which the king's son distinctly heard, 
and threw it upon the deer. The deer died in a 
moment. He repeated other words over the dead 
animal, the deer jumped up and ran away into the 
forest. 

Armed with this killing charm, the king's son, 
together with the princess and the three friends, 
went to his father-in-law's capital. As they 
approached the city of death, the three Rakshasis 
ran furiously towards them with open jaws. The 
king's son spilled charmed water upon them, and 
they died in an instant. They all then went to 
the heaps of bones. The merchant's son brought 
together the proper bones of the bodies, the 
prefect's son constructed them into skeletons, the 
minister's son clothed them with sinews, flesh, and 
skin, and the king's son gave them life. The 
princess was entranced at the sight of the re- 
animation of her parents and other relatives, and 
her eyes were filled with tears of joy. After a 
few days which they spent in great festivity, they 
left the revivified city, went to their own country, 
and lived many years in great happiness. 

Here my story endeth^ 

'Vhe Natiya-thorn withereth^ etc. 



268 



XXII 

THE BALD WIFE 

A CERTAIN man had two wives, the younger of 
whom he loved more than the elder. The 
younger wife had two tufts of hair on her head, 
and the elder only one. The man went to a 
distant town for merchandise ; so the two wives 
lived together in the house. But they hated each 
other : the younger one, who was her husband's 
favourite, ill-treated the other. She made her do 
all the menial work in the house ; rebuked her 
all day and night ; and did not give her enough to 
eat. One day the younger wife said to the elder, 
" Come and take away all the lice from the hair 
of my head." While the elder wife was searching 
among the younger one's hair for the vermin, one 
lock of hair by chance gave way ; on which the 
younger one, mightily incensed, tore off the single 
tuft that was on the head of the elder wife, and 
drove her away from the house. The elder wife, 
now become completely bald, determined to go 
into the forest, and there either die of starvation or 
be devoured by some wild beast. On her way 

269 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xxii 

she passed by a cotton plant. She stopped near it, 
made for herself a broom with some sticks which 
lay about, and swept clean the ground round about 
the plant. The plant was much pleased, and gave 
her a blessing. She wended on her way, and now 
saw a plantain tree. She swept the ground round 
about the plantain tree which, being pleased with 
her, gave her a blessing. As she went on she saw 
the shed of a Brahmani bull. As the shed was 
very dirty, she swept the place clean, on which 
the bull, being much pleased, blessed her. She 
next saw a tulasi plant, bowed herself down before 
it, and cleaned the place round about, on which 
the plant gave her a blessing. As she was going 
on in her journey she saw a hut made of branches 
of trees and leaves, and near it a man sitting cross- 
legged, apparently absorbed in meditation. She 
stood for a moment behind the venerable muni. 
" Whoever you may be," he said, " come before 
me ; do not stand behind me ; if you do, I will 
reduce you to ashes." The woman, trembling 
with fear, stood before the muni. " What is 
your petition .? " asked the muni. " Father Muni," 
answered the woman, " thou knowest how miserable 
I am, since thou art all-knowing. My husband 
does not love me, and his other wife, having torn 
off the only tuft of hair on my head, has driven me 
away from the house. Have pity upon me, Father 
Muni ! " The muni^ continuing sitting, said, " Go 
into the tank which you see yonder. Plunge into 
the water only once, and then come to me again." 

The woman went to the tank, washed in it, and 

270 



" When she got out of the water, what a change 
was seen in her ! " 



XXII THE BALD WIFE 

plunged into the water only once, according to 
the bidding of the muni. When she got out of 
the water, what a change was seen in her ! 
Her head was full of jet black hair, which was so 
long that it touched her heels ; her complexion 
had become perfectly fair ; and she looked young 
and beautiful. Filled with joy and gratitude, she 
went to the muni^ and bowed herself to the ground. 
The muni said to her, " Rise, woman. Go inside 
the hut, and you will find a number of wicker 
baskets, and bring out any you like." The 
woman went into the hut, and selected a modest- 
looking basket. The ?nuni said, " Open the 
basket." She opened it, and found it filled with 
ingots of gold, pearls and all sorts of precious 
stones. The muni said, " Woman, take that basket 
with you. It will never get empty. When 
you take away the present contents their room 
will be supplied by another set, and that by 
another, and that by another, and the basket 
will never become empty. Daughter, go in 
peace." The woman bowed herself down to 
the ground in profound but silent gratitude, and 
went away. 

As she was returning homewards with the 
basket in her hand, she passed by the tulasi plant 
whose bottom she had swept. The tulasi plant 
said to her, " Go in peace, child ! thy husband will 
love thee warmly." She next came to the shed of 
the Brahmani bull, who gave her two shell 
ornaments which were twined round its horns, 
saying, " Daughter, take these shells, put them on 

271 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xxii 

your wrists, and whenever you shake either of 
them you will get whatever ornaments you wish 
to obtain." She then came to the plantain 
tree, which gave her one of its broad leaves, 
saying, "Take, child, this leaf; and when you 
move it you will get not only all sorts of 
delicious plantains, but all kinds of agreeable 
food." She came last of all to the cotton plant, 
which gave her one of its own branches, saying, 
" Daughter, take this branch ; and when you 
shake it you will get not only all sorts of cotton 
clothes, but also of silk and purple. Shake it 
now in my presence." She shook the branch, 
and a fabric of the finest glossy silk fell on 
her lap. She put on that silk cloth, and wended 
on her way with the shells on her wrists, and 
the basket and the branch and the leaf in her 
hands. 

The younger wife was standing at the door 
of her house, when she saw a beautiful woman 
approach her. She could scarcely believe her 
eyes. What a change ! The old, bald hag 
turned into the very Queen of Beauty herself ! 
The elder wife, now grown rich and beautiful, 
treated the younger wife with kindness. She gave 
her fine clothes, costly ornaments, and the richest 
viands. But all to no purpose. The younger 
wife envied the beauty and hair of her associate. 
Having heard that she got it all from Father 
Muni in the forest, she determined to go there. 
Accordingly she started on her journey. She saw 
the cotton plant, but did nothing to it ; she passed 

272 



XXII THE BALD WIFE 

by the plantain tree, the shed of the Brahmani 
bull, and the tiilasi plant, without taking any 
notice of them. She approached the muni. The 
mutii told her to bathe in the tank, and plunge 
only once into the water. She gave one plunge, 
at which she got a glorious head of hair and 
a beautifully fair complexion. She thought a 
second plunge would make her still more beautiful. 
Accordingly she plunged into the water again, and 
came out as bald and ugly as before. She came to 
the muni^ and wept. The sage drove her away, 
saying, " Be off, you disobedient woman. You 
will get no boon from me." She went back to 
her house mad with grief. The lord of the two 
women returned from his travels and was struck 
with the long locks and beauty of his first wife. 
He loved her dearly ; and when he saw her secret 
and untold resources and her incredible wealth, he 
almost adored her. They lived together happily 
for many years, and had for their maid-servant the 
younger woman, who had been formerly his best 
beloved. 

Here my story endeth^ 
The Natiya-thorn withereth ; 
" W/iy, O Natiya-thorn^ dost wither .^ " 
" Why does thy cow on me browse V 
" Why^ O cow, dost thou browse ? " 
" Why does thy neat-herd not tend j?ie ? " 
" Why, O neat-herd, dost not tend the cow f " 
" Why does thy daughter-in-law not give f?ie rice ? " 
'< Why, O daughter-in-law , dost not give rice ? " 

273 T 



FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL xxii 

" Why does my child cry f " 
" Why, O child, dost thou cry ? '* 
" Why does the ant btte me ? '* 
" Why, ant, dost thou bite ? " 
Koot ! koot ! koot ! 



THE END 



Printtd by R. & R. Ci.akk, Limited, Kdiuburgh. 



A Selection of Macmillan & Co/s 
COLOUR BOOKS 



GREEN WILLOW AND OTHER JAPANESE 

FAIRY TALES. By Grace James. With 16 Illustrations 
in Colour by Warwick Goble, 8vo. 5s. net. 

THE INGOLDSBY LEGENDS; or, MIRTH 

AND MARVELS. With 16 Full-page Illustrations in Colour 
by H. G. Theaker. 8vo. 5s. net. 

ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND 

and THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS AND WHAT 
ALICE FOUND THERE. By Lewis Carroll. With 92 
Illustrations by John Tenniel, 16 being in Colour. 8vo. 
5 s. net. 

THE WATER BABIES. By Charles Kingsley. 
With 16 Illustrations in Colour by Warwick Goble. Svo. 
5 s. net. 

THE FOREST LOVERS. By Maurice Hewlett. 

With 16 Illustrations in Colour by A. S. Hartrick. Svo. 
5 s. net. 

THE JUNGLE BOOK. By Rudyard Kipling. 
With 16 Illustrations in Colour by Maurice and Edward 
Detmold. Svo. 5s. net. 

THE BRUSHWOOD BOY. By Rudyard Kipling. 
With Coloured Illustrations by F. H. Townsend. Svo. 6s. 

THEY. By Rudyard Kipling. With Coloured 
Illustrations by F, H. Townsend. Svo. 6s. 

THE LITTLE CITY OF HOPE. A Christmas 
Story. By F. Marion Crawford. With Illustrations in Colour 
by A. S. Hartrick. Svo. 5s. net. 

MACMILLAN AND CO., Ltd., LONDON. 



A Selection of Macmillan & Co.'s 
COLOUR BOOKS 



WHITE-EAR AND PETER: The Story of a 
Fox AND A Fox Terrier. By Neils Heiberg. With i6 
Plates in Colour by Cecil Aldin. Pott 4to. 

THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS OF 

GEOFFREY CHAUCER. Now first put in modern English 
by John S. P. Tatlock and Percy MacKaye. With 32 
Full-page Illustrations in Colour by Warwick Goble. Decor- 
ated Cloth. Crown 4to. 15s. net. 

STORIES FROM THE PENTAMERONE. 

By Giambattista Basile. Selected and Edited by E. F. 
Strange. With 32 Illustrations in Colour by Warwick 
Goble. Crown 4to. 15 s. net. 

OUR VILLAGE. By Mary Russell Mitford. 
With Introduction by Anne Thackeray Ritchie, 100 Illus- 
trations by Hugh Thomson, and 16 Plates in Colour from 
Drawings by Alfred Rawlings. Crown 4to. los. 6d. net, 

THE NATURAL HISTORY AND ANTIQUI- 
TIES OF SELBORNE. By Gilbert White. With 24 
Illustrations in Colour by G. E. Collins, R.B.A. Crown 4to. 
I OS. 6d. net. 

IN LOTUS-LAND: JAPAN. By Herbert G. 
Ponting, F.R.G.S. With 8 Plates in Colour and 96 in 
Monochrome. Crown 4to. 21s. net. 

CRANFORD. By Mrs. Gaskell. With a Preface 

by Anne Thackeray Ritchie, and Illustrations in Colour 
by Hugh Thomson. Crown 8vo. 5s. net. 

MACMILLAN AND CO., Ltd., LONDON.